Politics

Trudeau calls byelections for 3 seats, including B.C. riding sought by NDP's Singh

February could give Canadians a sneak peek at what's to come during the upcoming federal election as voters in three ridings head to the polls for byelections.

Voters in B.C., Quebec and Ontario ridings are heading to the polls early

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh poses for a photograph with a woman during a visit to a bakery while on a tour of the Montreal borough of Outremont on Saturday. Singh will be on the ballot as his party's candidate in the upcoming byelection in Burnaby South. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

February could give Canadians a sneak peek at what's to come during the upcoming federal election as voters in three ridings head to the polls for byelections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that byelections for the ridings of York–Simcoe in Ontario, Outremont in Quebec and Burnaby South in B.C. will be held Feb. 25. The calls come following opposition claims that the Liberals were deliberately delaying the byelections and leaving the ridings vacant.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is hoping voters in B.C. will give him a seat in the House of Commons.

The Burnaby South byelection — vacated by former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, now Vancouver's mayor —  will be a crucial test of Singh's leadership.

"The wait is finally over. Trudeau has called a byelection in Outremont and York Simcoe and here in Burnaby South," Singh told reporters in Vancouver Wednesday, adding that he and his wife have bought a home in the city.

Tina House, Amanda Alvaro, Kathleen Monk, Chris Hall and Tim Powers weigh in on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's chances in the Burnaby by-election. 9:43

Singh listed his priorities for both the riding and the nation — new investments in housing, health care and environmental protection — and said that only the New Democrats can be trusted to deliver.

"Every issue you look at which matters to the people of Burnaby South, the options are clear," he said.

"You've got Liberals, status quo, telling people to wait. Conservatives are saying that these things don't matter and they are not ready to take the action that people need. Or New Democrats, who are in the corner of people, fighting for them."

Under his tenure, several NDP MPs have said they won't run in the fall federal election or have already stepped aside. The party's fundraising performance is poor and it sits at 16.7 per cent support in CBC's Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data.

Singh will be up against Liberal candidate and small business owner Karen Wang, the Conservatives' Jay Shin, a corporate lawyer, and former talk show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson of the new People's Party of Canada.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has said her party will stand back and respect the "leader's courtesy" by not running a candidate against Singh.

The NDP leader is running in the Burnaby South byelection 0:50

Meanwhile, in Quebec and Ontario

New Democrats also face a tough battle in Outremont, vacated by their former leader Tom Mulcair when he left politics this summer. The Montreal-area riding has had symbolic meaning for the party ever since Mulcair took the former Liberal fortress in a breakout win back in 2007.

The upcoming byelection could serve as an opportunity to measure how Quebec voters view Singh. So far, the party's results in recent byelections have been underwhelming. The NDP finished a distant third in the June byelection in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord and fourth in the 2017 Lac-Saint-Jean contest.

Julia Sanchez, a political novice with a background in the humanitarian sector, will try to keep the riding orange while lawyer Rachel Bendayan will carry the banner for the Liberals. Law student Jasmine Louras is running for the Conservative Party and the Greens have tapped deputy leader Daniel Green to run for them.

There's no word yet on who is running for Maxime Bernier's party.

NDP candidate Thomas Mulcair celebrates with party leader Jack Layton, right, after winning the byelection in Outremont riding in Montreal Monday, Sept. 17, 2007. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The main political parties will also duke it out in the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, now that Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Peter Van Loan has retired from politics.

Business owner Scot Davidson is hoping to keep the north-of-Toronto riding blue, while the NDP has nominated activist and community organizer Jessa McLean. The Liberals' nomination meeting is being held Saturday.

Another vacancy to fill

Today's announcement doesn't address all the vacancies in the House of Commons.

Until recently, Sheila Malcolmson held the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding in B.C. for the NDP, but has left to run in a provincial byelection.

A Liberal official told CBC News the government won't call the federal byelection there until after the provincial race to replace Nanaimo MLA-turned-Mayor Leonard Krog is over on Jan. 30.

The Conservatives have already named John Hirst, a Sun Life Financial manager, as their candidate.

Meanwhile, Liberal Nicola Di Iorio, who has been largely unseen on Parliament Hill since the House resumed sitting this fall, has said he'll step down as the MP in Saint-Leonard–Saint-Michel Jan. 22.

That timeline allows Trudeau to avoid calling a byelection and to leave Di Iorio's seat vacant for the maximum time allowed — nine months before the Oct. 21 general election.

Timing questioned 

The government has come under fire from the other parties for not quickly calling the byelections.

At a rally on the weekend, Singh accused Trudeau of delaying the byelection, saying the prime minister has left constituents in B.C. without a voice in Ottawa for too long.

"This is a decision that impacts the bedrock of our democracy," Singh told supporters Sunday.

Last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused Trudeau of playing "political games" with his timing.

"Voters in these vacant seats deserve the chance to have their voices heard," said Scheer in a statement. "Justin Trudeau needs to do the right thing, and immediately call byelections in all vacant seats."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that byelections for the ridings of York–Simcoe in Ontario, Outremont in Quebec and Burnaby South in B.C. will be held Feb. 25. (CBC/Google Earth)

With files from the CBC's Éric Grenier

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