Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying the people of Burnaby South their right to political representation in Ottawa, according to NDP MP Peter Julian.
The NDP expected Trudeau to call a byelection for the seat left vacant by Kennedy Stewart (now the mayor of Vancouver) on Sunday, but the prime minister only called one byelection for a seat in Ontario.
There are currently four empty seats in Parliament, but Trudeau only called a byelection for one – Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, an Ontario riding without an MP since Conservative Gord Brown died in May.
The prime minister has 180 days after a seat has been vacated to call a byelection. The deadline for Brown’s seat was days away, but Stewart resigned on Sept. 14, giving Trudeau until March to call a vote in Burnaby South.
Traditionally prime ministers have called byelections for all empty seats at the same time and, Julian said, Trudeau is breaking with historical precedent to delay a vote in which federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh hopes to win his first seat in Parliament.
“It’s unprecedented and very petty and manipulative,” Julian said.
NDP supporters lined Royal Oak Avenue Sunday afternoon for a “burma shave” — holding signs by the roadside and waving to passersby — in support of Singh’s run for the seat. What was planned as a rally to follow the anticipated announcement of an election date turned into a protest against Trudeau’s decision, Julian said.
“We’re going to pressure Mr. Trudeau to call this byelection so the people of Burnaby South have their say,” he said.
Julian said the NDP will continue campaigning for Singh.
Singh himself was not in town Sunday. A party representative previously told the NOW he had other commitments in Toronto.
The NOW requested a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office explaining why Trudeau did not call the Burnaby South byelection.
The full statement read: “The deadline for the byelection called today is the end of this month, and the others were only vacated more recently.”