SURREY, B.C. – 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.
NDP 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 the nominee.
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.
He added that if he lost the nomination vote, he would respect the outcome, but if Singh simply appoints a candidate without a democratic vote, then he would have to consult local members 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.
Several female NDP activists applauded Singh’s decision in a letter posted online this week, countering a letter criticizing the move from 67 former New Democrat politicians in Saskatchewan.
Singh was in Surrey, B.C., this week for a NDP caucus retreat and said Tuesday he wasn’t going to change his mind because people in a “position of privilege” want to intimidate him.
Weir said it was disappointing that Singh dismissed dozens of long-serving NDP members of Parliament and the Saskatchewan legislature as privileged rather than addressing their concerns about a lack of due process.
At the end of the retreat Thursday, Singh said he would not consider apologizing to the politicians, though he noted they do “important work” for their communities.
“Using a position of privilege to do good work for the community is great, but to use that same position to try to have a change in position when it comes to harassment is not going to happen,” he said.
He also described the investigation into Weir’s conduct as a “fair process” and denied he had made any mistakes in handling complaints against the MP.
The party leader said he’s made it clear he won’t readmit Weir to caucus, though if he tries to seek the NDP nomination a vetting process will take place during which he will have “due process.”
“He can run as an Independent. That’s up to him,” Singh added.
The caucus retreat came at a difficult time in Singh’s tenure as party loyalists grumble about poor fundraising results and question his effectiveness as leader.
During a closing news conference with his caucus gathered behind him, Singh said there had been tough discussions but they emerged united in their determination to “make people’s lives better.”
“Sitting down around the table and sharing those stories and talking about the people that are depending on us … really brings us together as New Democrats to say, ‘Listen, we’ve got an important job to do.’ ”
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.
Weir 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.
He added 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.”