In Burnaby South, challengers vie to unseat Jagmeet Singh

NDP Leader defending sear he's held since February

In Burnaby South, all eyes are on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. 

More than a year after taking the helm of the federal left-wing party, he finally got a seat in the House of Commons after winning a Feb. 25 byelection. 

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Opponents from the Conservative, Liberal and People’s parties will once again challenge Singh for his seat. This time, however, they will also be joined by a Green Party candidate.   

In February, Green Leader Elizabeth May chose not to run a candidate against Singh out of a “leader’s courtesy,” but the time for such courtesies is over with a general election. 

The NDP leader won the seat with relative ease in February, beating the second-place Liberal by more than 12 percentage points and third-place Conservative by more than 16 percentage points. 

But byelections are notoriously unreliable as bellwethers for general elections to come. 

In 2015, the NDP’s Kennedy Stewart won the riding by fewer than 600 votes. 

The riding

The 2016 census found 111,973 people living in the riding – an increase of  6,936 from 2011.

The average age in Burnaby South is 41.2, slightly higher than the national average of 41.06.

The median income was $61,660 in 2015, while the national average was $73,050. That puts Burnaby South 237 among 338 electoral districts in Canada.

The candidates

Jagmeet Singh first got into politics in the 2011 federal election but he lost a Brampton, Ontario seat to a Conservative. Later that year, however, Singh won a seat in Ontario’s provincial Parliament, where he would later rise to become the Ontario NDP’s deputy leader.

In 2017, he won the federal NDP’s leadership race but did not immediately seek a seat in Parliament. After Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart resigned to run for mayor of Vancouver, Singh ran in the byelection to replace him and won. 

He will spend most of the campaign outside the riding as he runs a national campaign but has said his party’s policies on pharmacare, housing, climate change and more will help Burnaby South residents as much as anywhere. 

Liberal Neelam Brar is her party’s third candidate in the riding this year. Karen Wang dropped out of the byelection over a controversial social media post and was replaced by former MLA Richard Lee, who finished second. Lee had planned to run again this fall but pulled out of the race when his wife fell ill. 

Brar grew up in the riding but has spent much of the last several years pursuing a business career in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. 

The first-time politician says a vote for her is a vote to extend the Liberals’ record on the economy, housing and climate change.

Conservative Jay Shin is making his second foray into politics only a few months after his first. He held the blue banner in the Feb. 25 byelection and came third, close behind the Liberal candidate. 

The corporate lawyer who helps Asian firms invest in B.C. has concentrated on pocketbook issues, touting his party’s promise to run balanced budgets. 

Shin has also come out in favour of the Trans Mountain expansion project, which the Greens and NDP oppose, criticizing the Liberals’ handling of the file. 

Green Brennan Wauters is in the midst of his fourth campaign but his first in Burnaby. In 2011 he ran to become the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country before running provincially in Vancouver-Hastings in 2013 and federally once more in 2015 when he challenged Jason Kenney – then a federal cabinet minister who would go on to become premier of Alberta. 

The Greens did not contest the Feb. 25 byelection but are now more than ready to challenge Singh for the seat, Wauters says. 

The Green candidate says his experience working as an electrician working in Alberta’s oil sands makes him uniquely qualified to address the need for an energy transition in the face of climate change.

Al Rawdah of the People’s Party hopes to be among the first members of his party to be elected since it was created last year by former Conservative Maxime Bernier. 

Christian TV host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson led the party to a fourth-place finish in the byelection with nearly 11 per cent of the vote. She plans to run for the party in Alberta this fall. 

Rawdah, a businessman new to politics, has echoed much of his party’s rhetoric on immigration and diversity, telling the NOW migrants should be forced to attend classes teaching them about Canadian culture and beliefs. 

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