Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a spring byelection in former NDP leader Jack Layton's old Toronto riding.

In a statement issued Sunday, Harper's office said the by-election for Layton's Toronto-Danforth riding would take place on March 12.

NDP members in Toronto have selected law professor Craig Scott as their candidate in the former leader's east-end riding.

Scott specializes in human rights law. As well, he's been endorsed by several well-known figures including former Ontario NDP president Janet Solberg and Layton's political mentor, philosopher Charles Taylor.

In order to win the candidacy, Scott had to beat out two other candidates -- Claire Prashaw and Justin Duncan.

The Conservatives have nominated communications consultant Andrew Keyes to carry their banner in the upcoming vote.

The byelection will occur nearly two weeks before the New Democratic Party selects a new leader in a race that's been saturated with candidates.

Eight hopefuls including former party president Brian Topp and Toronto MP Peggy Nash are competing for the title of NDP leader.

Layton died of cancer late last August, just months after he led the New Democratic Party to official opposition status in the House of Commons.

The New Democrats picked up 103 seats in the last federal election, a notable jump from the 19 seats it held when Layton became leader in 2004.