Ottawa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set Feb. 25 as the date for byelections in three vacant ridings including the British Columbia riding where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is hoping to win a seat in the House of Commons.

Trudeau has called the byelections for Burnaby South, the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe and Montreal’s Outremont.

The Liberal leader had said he’d call the byelections for early February. Both Singh and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have complained that Trudeau has taken too long to do it.

“The people of Burnaby South deserve a voice in Ottawa as they face some of the highest housing costs, skyrocketing medical fees, and deep concern for their own future and the future of the environment,” Singh said at the end of last week. “It’s clear Mr. Trudeau isn’t acting on the best interest of the people of Burnaby but rather he’s focused on the best interest of his own political party.”

“As 2019 begins, Justin Trudeau is once again putting his own partisan interests ahead of Canadians who deserve to have their voices heard in Parliament. Four seats are currently vacant, but Trudeau refuses to commit to calling all four by-elections,” Scheer said Jan. 4.

The byelections will be crucial tests for New Democrats, who’ve been struggling to find their footing since their party was relegated to a distant third in the 2015 general election. Singh’s leadership has been battered by poor fundraising and the announcements of several veteran MPs that they won’t seek re-election this fall; winning a byelection and taking a seat in Parliament would shore up his position.

But the race in Outremont, left vacant after former NDP leader Tom Mulcair resigned, will also be seen as a test of whether the NDP can hang on what’s left of the orange wave that swept Quebec in 2011. Outremont is a former Liberal stronghold the party would like to win back.

The Conservatives are expected to easily keep York-Simcoe, left vacant by the resignation of longtime Tory MP Peter Van Loan.

Trudeau has not called a byelection in another B.C. riding, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, vacated last week by New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, who is seeking a seat in the provincial legislature.

Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio has also said he will resign his Montreal seat this month after scarcely appearing in the House of Commons all autumn. Brampton Liberal Raj Grewal has said he’d resign to deal with a gambling addiction but reversed himself.

The law says byelections can only be called until Jan. 20. After that, a vacant seat will remain vacant until the October general election.

The Canadian Press