After lengthy medical leave, Sikand bows out of September election
Gagan Sikand, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Streetsville, has announced he is not seeking reelection on September 20.
“Serving this community for the past six years in the House of Commons has been the greatest honour of my life,” Sikand said in a statement posted to Twitter shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a federal election will be held this fall.
The short statement did not offer any further details about Sikand’s medical leave, which has seen him absent from Parliamentary business for close to a year.
The Liberal Party announced on August 15 that Rechie Valdez has been acclaimed as Sikand’s replacement on the upcoming ballot. A relatively unknown candidate who will be tasked with securing a seat the Liberals have held since Sikand defeated Conservative incumbent Brad Butt in 2015.
Sikand has been on a long-term medical leave since October 2020 and questions regarding his departure and his ability to help with the concerns of his constituents have been met with silence. The Pointer first reported on his leave in February 2021 and has not received direct answers to questions.
In May, The Pointer sent questions to Charles-Eric Lepine, chief of staff for the Liberal government whip. He was asked how residents in Streetsville are being represented, if local MPs are helping to cover the legislative gap and if Sikand is still receiving his full salary and benefits.
“All incoming calls and emails received by the member’s constituency office are monitored and triaged,” he wrote in a short email response. “Response times and the overall level of service provided to the constituents of Mississauga–Streetsville remains at a very high standard.”
Follow-up questions were ignored.
Sikand has not spoken or voted in Parliament since October 2020, according to records maintained by the government and Open Parliament, an independent, non-governmental website that tracks votes, speeches and committees in Parliament. Sikand’s online presence has been slightly more active, with the MP using Twitter to share messages with residents until January of this year.
Mississauga-Streetsville constituents in need of MP assistance were left with few places to turn during Sikand's medical leave that began in October 2020.
(Image from Google Maps)
Sikand left approximately 118,000 constituents without representation in Ottawa, forcing them to scramble to find assistance with important questions over a large portion of the pandemic.
Unable to get the answers they needed from his office, two separate constituents reached out to The Pointer for help. They did not want their names used.
One resident struggled to claim back-payments for the Canadian Recovery Benefit (CRB), an employment benefit for workers impacted by COVID-19. The issue required MP intervention as it went beyond the legislated rules and, as a result, the Streetsville resident needed to speak to Sikand to lobby his party to amend the rules.
Another local resident voted for Sikand in 2019 based on the Liberal’s promise to increase pensions to widowed seniors by 25 percent. The promise is yet to be fulfilled and the resident said Sikand needs to be held accountable by his constituents. Both residents were unable to get answers from Sikand’s office and found themselves with nowhere to turn.
Many residents may not have known their MP was on medical leave. The automated voice messaging system greeting callers at Sikand’s office doesn’t say he is away. A cheery voice tells callers in a 21-second voicemail that Sikand’s office is operating remotely. For those who leave a detailed message, staff are “ready to support you remotely”.
The MP was first elected during the 2015 Liberal red wave, when Justin Trudeau’s party took every seat in Brampton and Mississauga. Sikand was given a renewed mandate in 2019, beating his Conservative rival, Ghada Melek, by almost 10,000 votes.
A lawyer by training, Sikand worked for the Ontario government’s attorney general before he made the leap to federal politics.
Email: [email protected]
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