Member of Parliament Erin Weir says he’ll seek the NDP nomination in his riding again despite being removed from the party’s caucus after an investigation upheld harassment complaints.
Leader Jagmeet Singh has stood firm in his decision to block Weir from returning to caucus or running in the 2019 election, but the Regina-Lewvan MP says local New Democrats should decide who the nominee should be.
Weir said he’s knocked on thousands of doors in the riding and has “overwhelming support.”
“The real question is what does Mr. Singh intend to do? Will he simply ignore the more than 2,000 NDP members in Regina-Lewvan and appoint his own candidate?” Weir asked.
“If I lost the NDP nomination vote in Regina-Lewvan, I would certainly respect the result and not run. However, if Mr. Singh simply appoints a candidate without a democratic vote, then I would have to consult local New Democrats about the way forward.”
Further, Weir said a “significant” number of NDP members of Parliament want to see him return to caucus, but they cannot speak out publicly because they are subject to Singh’s discipline.
“There are lots of people in the caucus that want me to be part of it. It’s Mr. Singh who’s said he doesn’t want me to be a part of it,” he said.
Weir was suspended from the caucus in February after fellow New Democrat Christine Moore sent an email to her caucus colleagues saying she had heard numerous complaints about Weir allegedly harassing staffers.
A subsequent independent investigation upheld several complaints of harassment, which Singh described at the time as a failure to read non-verbal cues in social settings.
However, it was Weir’s response to the findings — publicly dismissing one complaint as payback for a policy dispute he had with a member of former leader Tom Mulcair’s staff — that got him booted out of caucus permanently in May.
Weir said he’s completed sensitivity training to better respond to non-verbal cues and has reflected on how to have frank political debates in ways that won’t make people feel intimidated or embarrassed.
The investigation report has never been released, but Weir posted a letter from the sensitivity trainer on his website that he says summarizes the findings. The sexual harassment complaints involved Weir’s habit of standing too close and inserting himself into conversations with others, the letter says.
Several female NDP activists applauded Singh’s decision to block Weir from running in a letter posted online this week, countering a letter criticizing the move from 67 former New Democrat politicians in Saskatchewan.
Singh is in Surrey, B.C., for the NDP caucus retreat and was set to address reporters at a wrap-up news conference later Thursday.
The party leader refused to back down from his decision on Tuesday, saying it’s his responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and harassment is unacceptable in the party.
“I’m not going to change my decision because people in a position of privilege want to intimidate me,” Singh said.
Weir said it was disappointing that Singh dismissed 67 long-serving New Democrat politicians in Saskatchewan as privileged rather than addressing their concerns about the lack of due process.
He said he feels a tremendous obligation to the hundreds of people who worked hard in Saskatchewan to regain some federal NDP seats after the party was shut out of the province for a decade.
“I feel a responsibility to try and maintain and build upon those hard-won gains in Saskatchewan,” he said.
Weir remains a sitting MP and said he’s eager to return to Parliament next week and speak up for the people of his riding.
“I’ve been active in the NDP since I was 15 and feel a deep affinity to the movement,” he said. “I never thought I’d be in this situation. It’s been a difficult process to navigate, but I try to be focused on the task ahead.”
— By Laura Kane in Surrey and Janice Dickson in Ottawa
The Canadian Press