House of Commons seat crucial for head of the federal NDP
By Lauren Kelly, Graphics Manager
On February 25, Jagmeet Singh won the Burnaby South byelection with 39 percent of the vote. He came out ahead of Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee (26 percent), Conservative candidate Jay Shin (22.5 percent), People’s Party candidate Laura-Lynn Thompson (10.6 percent), and Independents Terry Grimwood (1.1 percent) and Valentine Wu (.7 percent).
Lee was not the original candidate for the Liberal Party in this riding. Karen Wang resigned in January after a message was posted in her name on WeChat that referred to her opponent as “the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent” and herself as “the only Chinese candidate.” She explained this message by saying that she was celebrating the diversity of Burnaby South, but the Liberal Party would not allow her back into the race.
This byelection was an important one to win for Singh, who is the head of the federal NDP but did not yet have a seat in the House of Commons. Kennedy Stewart left his Burnaby South seat in order to campaign for mayor of Vancouver, which allowed Singh the opportunity.
Singh relocated to Burnaby from his home province of Ontario for this campaign. Typically, a federal party candidate who does not yet have a seat in the House of Commons will be offered a safe seat, but Singh wanted to win one properly and have a seat in an area to which he felt a connection.
Singh, previously a criminal defence lawyer, has been in politics since 2011, when he successfully won a Provincial Parliament seat in the Ontario riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. He held this seat until 2017, when he stepped down to become the leader of the federal NDP. He’s running on a platform that includes introducing a $15 minimum wage, decriminalizing petty drug possession, and creating affordable housing.
In his speech to his supporters following his victory, Singh told the crowd: “When I was growing up, I could have never imagined someone like me ever running to be prime minster. But guess what, we just told a lot of kids out there that, yes you can.”