The Liberal Party of Canada has found a new challenger for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South.
Former BC Liberal MLA RIchard Lee has replaced Karen Wang as the Liberal nominee in the Feb. 25 byelection to fill the seat left vacant by Kennedy Stewart, now the mayor of Vancouver. Lee, who represented Burnaby North in the provincial legislature for 16 years before losing to New Democrat Janet Routledge in 2017, said he was the only candidate to submit papers for the nomination the second time around.
Despite coming from a provincial party comprised of both federal Liberals and Conservatives, Lee said the more left-leaning party has always been his home. He said he was a card-carrying federal Liberal member in the 1990s.
“I'm honoured to be the candidate, and I look forward to listening to the people in this riding and the concerns of their issues in Burnaby South,” he said.
Lee said he wasn’t worried about entering the race late, after the unraveling of the previous Liberal candidate. Wang pulled out of the campaign after a WeChat post from her account drew attention to her being the only candidate of Chinese descent in the race and pointed to Singh’s Indian heritage. A later attempt to regain the Liberal nomination was rejected by the party.
Lee said his 16 years in the legislature and 32 years of living in Burnaby have prepared him to serve as the member of Parliament for Burnaby South.
“That will help me because I know the community and the concerns and the issues of the local community,” he said.
Lee named what he believes to be the three top issues in the byelection: the economy, job-creation and housing.
He touted the Liberals’ plan to spend $40 billion on their national housing strategy over the next 10 years.
“That’s a lot of money,” he said.
Lee also pledged support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which he said will create jobs. The project is currently on hold as the National Energy Board reviews its impact on the marine habitat and while First Nations await new consultations with the government.
Lee said the government needs to listen to First Nations and community concerns about safety and impacts to the environment, such as how increased tanker traffic will impact the ocean.
Lee said the government has committed to a $1.5-billion program to protect the environment from such things as oil spills.
“Those kinds of actions are really important for the community, so that our local community will support the pipeline,” said Lee, adding that he’s lived in the community a long time. “I know local concerns about safety.”
With files from Chris Campbell and Jennifer Gauthier