The Liberals have nominated their third Burnaby South candidate in eight months, tapping businesswoman Neelam Brar to challenge NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the Oct. 21 federal election.
She follows Karen Wang, who dropped out of the Feb. 25 byelection over controversial social media posts, and Richard Lee, who came second in that race and originally planned to run again this fall but changed his plans when his wife was diagnosed with a serious illness.
Brar has advised large corporations in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and India on investment strategy and later focused her career on helping smaller tech startups with a focus on women and people of colour.
“I started advocating very heavily for diversity in businesses, both from women and a minority standpoint, because, far too often, in the first days in my career with the large corporations, I was the only woman or the only minority in the room,” she said. “And I feel that, if we're going to change that, we can have a huge impact with emerging companies on the ground.”
Brar also started her own business, District Cowork, in New York. She sold the “innovation centre” last summer and moved back to the Lower Mainland.
Despite her successes in the business world, the Burnaby South native decided it was time to come home and throw her hat in the political ring.
“I believe the true impact you can have in the world is by helping the citizens of a country and Burnaby actually gave me the foundation to become successful and to believe in myself and how to reach for the stars,” she said. “I wanted to come back and serve this amazing community and offer the same support and infrastructure for everybody in the community to prosper.”
She said the number one issue this election is the economy, followed by housing and the environment.
During the byelection, Singh put housing at the centre of his campaign, often criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for making big promises to improve affordability without following through with funding.
Brar, however, cited the Liberals’ first-time homebuyers’ incentive, a shared equity program meant to ease monthly mortgage payments, “which I think everyone needs to be taking advantage of if they have not purchased a home,” she said.
“Having that first asset in your family or individually is critical because it provides stability as you go on and build your life.”
Singh won the byelection earlier this year with relative ease, besting Lee by more than 12 percentage points, but Brar said she’s up for the challenge.
“I believe it's not going to be easy, but, that said, there are a number of differences that I bring to the table, and I believe that that will really count in this election. I am a native of Burnaby, first of all, and I understand what the community needs to succeed, having grown up there,” she said.
(Singh is from Ontario but began renting a home in the riding ahead of the byelection.)
Brar said she will be campaigning hard to earn the trust of Burnaby South voters come election day.
“I have a tremendous amount of experience and international know-how (and) I want to bring the best practices that I've learned everywhere to my community so that we can continuously grow and improve,” she said.