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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accuses Justin Trudeau of ‘petty political games’

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accuses Justin Trudeau of ‘petty political games’
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OTTAWA—NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of playing “petty political games” with federal byelections, and says the Liberals might be scared of facing voters in the British Columbia riding where he hopes to win his first-ever federal seat.

Stung by Trudeau’s decision to hold off calling a byelection in Burnaby South, Singh told the Star the prime minister appears to be putting the Liberal party’s political interests ahead of the needs of the electorate.

“It’s certainly not in people’s interest. And that, to me, is a problem,” Singh said in his office on Parliament Hill, where he remains sidelined from the House of Commons.

“Maybe it’s in their interest not to face the electorate in certain ridings,” he said. “Maybe they’re afraid of being confronted on their track record.”

It’s been more than two months since Singh announced he would relocate to the west coast and run in Burnaby South. The riding was vacated Sept. 14 by former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who was elected Mayor of Vancouver earlier this month.

But even though Canada’s election law gives Trudeau until mid-March to call the byelection there, Singh said he expected the prime minister to schedule the vote in all four vacant ridings. Instead, Trudeau announced Sunday that a byelection will be held Dec. 3 in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, the eastern Ontario riding previously held by Conservative MP Gord Brown, who died suddenly May 2. The other two vacant ridings are Outremont in Quebec and York–Simcoe in Ontario.

Singh said Trudeau’s decision showed a “lack of respect” for the electorate and their right to have representation in Parliament. He said the Liberals may be hesitant to face voters in Burnaby South, whom Singh said are disappointed by the government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline, concerned about delays to new funding for housing, and eager for Ottawa to create a universal pharmacare regime.

The prime minister dismissed the NDP’s concerns moments later in the Commons, when B.C. MP Peter Julian demanded an explanation for why he didn’t call all four byelections.

“The sanctimony from the NDP on this is, as always, amusing. Those seats were vacated mere weeks ago. They will be filled under elections law in due course through byelections,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau’s decision means Singh will have to wait longer to get a chance to win a seat in the House of Commons. Singh said he is working to connect with voters and fix the NDP’s dire financial situation, with donations plummeting since the NDP lost Official Opposition status after the last election.

“I came in (after) two years of pretty massive decline, and so I knew that I’d have to do some work to turn things around,” Singh said.

But while he awaits the byelection call, the Liberals haven’t committed to running a candidate against him in Burnaby South. The Green party said it would follow the “leader’s courtesy” of not naming a candidate when an opposing leader vies for a byelection, while the Conservatives have nominated Burnaby lawyer Jay Shin to run in Burnaby South.

Adam Pankratz, the Liberal candidate who narrowly lost Burnaby South in 2015, said he’d be open to taking on Singh. He took another shot at Singh on Monday, after the NDP leader told reporters he’s running in Burnaby South because people there asked him to.

“This is hard to believe,” Pankratz wrote on Twitter, “if for no other reason than most people in Burnaby South still don’t know who he is.”
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