The Liberals announced Vuong would no longer be affiliated with the party on Saturday — two days before the election took place — following news that came to light regarding a dropped sexual assault charge against him.
In response to Vuong’s decision to keep the seat as an Independent, many politicians and constituents have called for him to step down, with some voters saying they cast their ballots before he was removed from the Liberal roster.
Moreover, some who voted on election day found it unclear as to whether they were choosing to elect Vuong or the Liberal Party. (Vuong remained listed as the Liberal candidate on the ballot because he was dropped just under three weeks after the cut-off date for candidate nominations.)
“I feel like people have been cheated of their choice to pick somebody that runs on a platform and runs still on that platform,” Gabriela Artiga, a Spadina—Fort York resident, told Global News.
“What is his plan now as an Independent? Have his views changed? What is he going to do for us?”
Artiga said she and her family voted in the riding. She said she thinks Vuong should resign and that she feels it’s his responsibility to listen to the community as a public servant.
“It’s taken away our voice, and we voted (not knowing) what was going to happen,” Artiga added.
On Wednesday, Spadina—Fort York city councillor Joe Cressy implored Vuong to step down, saying he didn’t “earn the right” to represent the community.
“If he wants to sit as an independent MP, he should campaign for the job as one,” Cressy said.
Spadina—Fort York MPP Chris Glover echoed Cressy’s comments on Twitter.
“Elected representatives are supposed to be leaders,” he said. “They must act with transparency, integrity and accountability. Kevin Vuong has failed to do any of this.”
Moreover, Norm Di Pasquale, Spadina—Fort York’s federal NDP candidate who lost second to Vuong, said people must demand for a byelection in the coming days following his opponent’s decision to keep the seat.
“It has been a very difficult few days for many survivors and women in our community,” Di Pasquale said. “What we have seen unfold here is unacceptable, and it underscores the importance of supporting and believing survivors.
” … Kevin Vuong has not earned the right to serve this community. And while I did not win, he forfeited his right to stand as our MP.”
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 3,100 people signed a petition calling for Vuong’s resignation.
Despite public outcry, York University politics professor Dennis Pilon said he’s not sure whether anything can be done to oust Vuong from his seat, other than moral suasion.
“There are a few things that can happen,” Pilon said. “Parliament itself can decide whether they want to keep him. So there is a rule in the Standing Orders of Parliament that allow Parliament to expel a member.”
He pointed to cases where this has been done in the past, though he noted these have been “extreme” situations. For instance, one case involved Louis Riel, the former Metis leader who led the North-West Resistance, while another involved former communist MP Fred Rose, who was found guilty of trading secrets to the Soviet Union.
“Is (Vuong’s) case on par with those historic ones? I’m not sure there would be agreement within the House about whether or not it would be appropriate to expel this member on this basis,” Pilon added.
“Given the Liberals don’t have a majority, it’s not like the party could just say, ‘We don’t like this guy — we want him out.’ They don’t have enough votes to get the job done.”
Moreover, byelections have only been historically called when a seat becomes vacant, either because a sitting member has resigned or died, according to Grace Skogstad, a political science professor with the University of Toronto.
“There might be some technical room for debate as to when one becomes an MP,” she added in an email, pointing to a document that she said suggests one might only become an MP when the chief electoral officer says so or when the candidate is sworn into the House of Commons.
On Wednesday after getting elected, Vuong released a statement saying he will “work hard” to earn the trust of those who doubt him as he takes his seat as an Independent.
“I appreciate that not everyone is happy with my election, and I very much understand why it is different in my case,” he said.
“Allegations of sexual assault are a serious matter, deserving of more discussion than this statement can provide. For these reasons, I intend to address them at a later date more wholly in a dedicated forum.”