Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator (www.mackaycartoons.net) – Saturday March 31, 2018
Singh retracts punishment of veteran MP Christopherson after backlash from NDP caucus
Rumblings of discontent in the NDP caucus have been replaced by statements of support for Jagmeet Singh, after the party leader’s swift change of heart over punishing a veteran parliamentarian who broke ranks on a vote in the House of Commons last week.
In the face of public criticism from members of his caucus, Singh announced Tuesday night that he would reinstate Hamilton MP David Christopherson to his role as deputy chair of the powerful procedure and House affairs committee. The move quashed a decision Singh made just days earlier to dump Christopherson from the position as punishment for voting against his party on a Conservative motion — defeated by a majority of Liberals and New Democrats — regarding a controversial change to applications for summer jobs funding.
Applying groups must now “attest” that their mandate respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including abortion rights.
Following the about-face by Singh, MPs played down any suggestion of disunity in the NDP fold. Christopherson himself said in a statement that, after speaking with Singh in recent days, he has “complete trust in his leadership.”
Other MPs expressed similar sentiments when pressed by reporters outside the House of Commons. Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay), who ran second against Singh in last year’s leadership race and spoke out against the decision to punish Christopherson, said the speed with which Singh reversed the move “reassured people” in caucus.
It is the second week in a row that conversation around the NDP has been dominated by questions about caucus’s faith in Singh’s decisions. MPs held an unscheduled meeting March 19 to discuss how Singh reacted to reports that he attended rallies where people expressed support for Sikh separatism in India, venerated a militant leader there, and in one case discussed the legitimacy of political violence as a means of resistance.
Two days later, in front of a collection of applauding MPs, Singh categorically denounced all forms of violence and said he won’t attend any more rallies if he knows someone will advocate violence as a political tool. The party leader had said in a previous interview with the Star that, while he opposed terrorism, questions of violence against oppression in the Sikh context were too complex to be answered in a “simplistic manner.”
Then this week, Angus told the Globe and Mail that Singh’s decision to punish Christopherson for breaking rank on the summer program vote showed “a lack of respect.” Quebec MP Romeo Saganash told the paper he agrees with Angus and called the decision “unfortunate.”
(Source: Toronto Star)