02/05/2012 12:59 EST | Updated 04/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Jack Layton's Toronto-Danforth Riding: Prime Minister Stephen Harper Calls Byelection For March 12


OTTAWA - Stephen Harper has called a byelection for March 12 in former NDP leader Jack Layton's riding.

The news came in the form of a statement from the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday.

Layton died of cancer last summer and the New Democrats have picked law professor Craig Scott to carry their banner in the riding of Toronto-Danforth.

The Conservatives have nominated communications specialist Andrew Keyes to run for them.

The riding, located east of downtown Toronto, is a diverse section of the city that was known as a Liberal bastion until Layton's 2004 election. At one point in the late 1970s it was represented by then NDP MP Bob Rae, who is now interim Liberal leader.

The byelection will come just before the NDP selects a new leader March 24.

There are eight candidates vying to replace Layton, including former party president Brian Topp, Toronto MP Peggy Nash and former deputy leader Thomas Mulcair.

Layton died only a few months after he led New Democrats to official opposition status in the House of Commons.

Despite that, the Conservatives see the Liberals as the main opponents.

"Governments do not usually win byelections and as this is a traditional Liberal seat, it's their's to lose," Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey said on Sunday.

The Liberals have yet to choose a candidate.

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, who ran for the Green Party in the 2011 federal election, was nominated by the party Sunday to run again in Toronto-Danforth.

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