POLITICS
01/09/2019 14:25 EST | Updated 01/15/2019 10:59 EST

Federal Byelections In B.C., Ontario, Quebec Called For Feb. 25

We finally have a date for these showdowns.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his party's candidate in the Quebec riding of Outremont, Julia Sanchez, will face tough byelection battles in the coming weeks, as will the Conservatives' Scot Davidson and the Liberals' Rachel Bendayan.
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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his party's candidate in the Quebec riding of Outremont, Julia Sanchez, will face tough byelection battles in the coming weeks, as will the Conservatives' Scot Davidson and the Liberals' Rachel Bendayan.

Canada's next federal election is almost 10 months away, but with three major byelections slated to take place in the coming weeks, our big democratic dance is about to heat up.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally set Feb. 25 as the date for the three crucial contests in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South, the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, and the Quebec riding of Outremont.

Byelections usually get less attention and enthusiasm from Canadians than general elections, but as we inch closer to a campaign that both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer predict will be "nasty," the contests are definitely worth watching.

Burnaby South

Arguably the most gripping electoral faceoff will go down in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South, where candidates are vying to replace former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who is now Vancouver's new mayor. Stewart announced he was stepping down last May.

The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh eats popcorn during a visit to the Rumble on Gray Street Fair, in Burnaby, B.C. on Sept. 15, 2018.

Who's running?

The most watched candidate in this byelection will undoubtedly be NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is hoping to finally secure a seat in the House of Commons.

Singh, who was chosen as his party's leader in October 2017, had for months danced around the question of where — and even if — he would run for a seat prior to the 2019 federal election. Singh indicated he was comfortable waiting until the general vote to contest a seat in Brampton East, an area he represented provincially as an NDP MPP for years.

But last August, almost 10 months after his rise to the party's leadership, Singh announced he would be running in — and moving to — Burnaby South. He also said he was committed to running in that riding even after the MP who represents Brampton East, former Liberal Raj Grewal, announced he was stepping down to deal with what he called "personal and medical" issues. (Of course, that story only get weirder from there.)

"I'm committed to Burnaby South, I'm all in on Burnaby," Singh told media this summer. "My wife and I talked about it and we're going to run here."

Watch: Singh says NDP is 'trending up' a year into his leadership

Singh's trajectory isn't unprecedented, of course. His predecessor, the late Jack Layton, waited for a federal election before winning a seat, and former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney both initially left their home provinces to find a spot in the House, the former in New Brunswick and the latter in Nova Scotia.

But if Singh's potentially risky decision to run in a riding he's never lived or worked in has you on the edge of your seat, hold on to your hats. And seat. Hold on to both.

Even though previous governments have extended a so-called "leader's courtesy' by not running anyone against party leaders looking to secure a seat in the Commons, this time both the Liberals and the Conservatives have named flag-bearers to go up against Singh. The Green Party, however, is holding on to that tradition.

In the blue corner is business lawyer Jay Shin, who spent his teen years in Burnaby. In the Liberals' corner is Karen Wang, a daycare business operator who has lived in the riding for two decades — and didn't hesitate to use that fact to go after Singh.

"He's not from our local community. He cannot represent you, represent us," she said of the NDP leader. "I believe we will have a good chance to win in Burnaby South as I believe right now I'm very familiar with our community. I'm one of the people here."

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What's at stake?

Besides the political fate of a party's leader? Not much!

Just kidding. With weak polling numbers and lacklustre fundraising, pressure has been building for Singh to get in the Commons and galvanize the NDP, especially with several party veterans announcing they won't be seeking re-election in 2019.

While he initially danced around the question of what he would do if he fails in Burnaby South, Singh recently told CTV News he will continue to lead the NDP even if he loses the Feb. 25 vote.

The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and NDP candidate for the Quebec riding of Outremont Julia Sanchez cross a street during a tour of the Montreal borough on Dec. 22, 2018.

Outremont

Speaking of NDP leaders going places: Almost six months after former NDP leader Tom Mulcair officially stepped down as an MP, the byelection game is now afoot in the Quebec riding of Outremont.

Who's running?

The NDP is hoping its candidate Julia Sanchez will be able to inherit the support Mulcair enjoyed in the riding for more than a decade.

But Sanchez faces strong headwinds in the Outremont battle. The party has seen disappointing results in several byelections in the province and, like Singh, she also has the challenge of running in a riding away from home. Sanchez comes to Outremont from Ottawa, where she worked for seven years as the CEO of the Canadian Council of International Co-operation.

Sanchez will face Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan, a lawyer who finished second to Mulcair in the last election, while the Conservatives have announced Jasmine Louras as their candidate.

The Green Party hasn't named a candidate yet.

What's at stake?

Like other recent byelections defeats in the province, a loss in Outremont could represent another crack in the NDP's so-called orange wave, which catapulted the party back in 2011 to second place and made it the Official Opposition for the first time in its history. A disappointing showing in the 2015 election led to more of an orange crush.

But Mulcair's win in Outremont in 2007, defeating the Liberals' star candidate at the time, is seen as the first ripple for the party in that province, and Singh acknowledged that the riding held symbolic importance as the birthplace of the orange wave. Liberals held the riding for decades before Mulcair's upset win more than 10 years ago.

Scot Davidson/Facebook
The Conservatives are hoping that candidate Scot Davidson will keep the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe blue in an upcoming byelection.

York-Simcoe

Lastly, the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe will also play host to another byelection showdown.

Candidates will run to replace former Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, a former senior cabinet minister who stepped down to return to his career as a lawyer after 14 years in politics.

Who's running?

The Conservatives have chosen Scot Davidson as their candidate. He'll be going up against Jessa McLean, who was acclaimed as the NDP candidate, and the Liberals' Shaun Tanaka, who also ran in 2015.

What's at stake?

Seat-rich Ontario is a battleground province and the riding has been a Conservative stronghold in the years that Van Loan has held it. Provincially, the riding is represented by Ontario's Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. But it remains to be seen if voters there might be open for a change with Van Loan off the ballot.

In 2017, Liberals pulled off a stunning upset in the Quebec riding of Lac Saint-Jean to fill the vacancy left by veteran Tory MP and former cabinet minister Denis Lebel. The party hadn't won there since 1980 and it's where Liberals had their worst result in the province in 2015.

Another upset in a reliably blue riding would no doubt be seen by some as a possible harbinger of things to come in a general election.

No contest called for another NDP MP's riding

Trudeau still hasn't called byelection in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which opened up after NDP MP Sheila Malcomson stepped down to run for the provincial wing of her party.

The showdown is not guaranteed, however, since new federal rules prohibit calling a byelection within nine months of a general vote. That means Trudeau has until Jan. 20 to decide whether to call a byelection in Malcomson's riding.

Another Quebec riding is also losing its MP this month. But Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio's scheduled resignation date of Jan. 22 guarantees that no byelection will be held in his riding until the federal election.

With files from The Canadian Press, Ryan Maloney