Ottawa Centre residents will have to wait until Nov. 27 or the next federal election — whichever comes first — to elect a successor to long-time MP Mac Harb.
If the byelection is not held until late fall, the riding, which includes Parliament, will have been without formal representation for more than a year. Harb was summoned to the Senate in September in the waning days of the Chretien government. Prime Minister Paul Martin had until last Sunday to call the byelection.
The byelection will not take place, if a general election is called before then. The election is widely expected for some time this spring, but theoretically could be delayed until 2005. The last general election was held in October 2000.
Opposition politicians were quick to denounce the delay.
NDP candidate Ed Broadbent told the Ottawa Citizen that it was “an outrageous abuse of power” because the Liberals are afraid of losing the byelection.
The former NDP leader will face long-time Martin confidante Richard Mahoney in what is expected to be a close race.
Ottawa Centre Conservative riding association president Tom Thompson said his party was not surprised by the byelection date.
In a news release, Thompson asserted that the party’s polling showed that the Liberals are headed for defeat in Ottawa Centre.
“The Liberal government’s announced byelection date reinforces our view that they are very concerned as to voter intentions in today’s environment,” he said.
Thompson also dismissed Broadbent as a spent force who represents a party “that has no hope of finishing beyond third place in a general election.
The Conservatives will nominate their candidate at a meeting March 30.