OTTAWA—The newly-acclaimed Liberal candidate in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South is touting community connections in her bid to beat NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a federal byelection expected next month.
Singh relocated to British Columbia from Ontario last fall to run in the riding, after months of questions and speculation about where the former Brampton MPP would try to win his first seat at the federal level.
Karen Wang, a local daycare business owner who was named Liberal candidate for Burnaby South on Dec. 29, said she can defeat the NDP leader because of her strong ties to the community. Originally from China, Wang moved to Burnaby with her husband 20 years ago. She said she now oversees a daycare chain with nine employees, started a non-profit to perform Chinese opera and visit seniors homes, and is raising her family in the suburban city east of Vancouver.
Wang said she is also informed by the experience of running in the 2017 provincial election for the B.C. Liberals, when she canvassed thousands of homes in the area. She lost to the provincial NDP candidate by 2,256 votes.
“I am very familiar with this community, and I understand what people’s needs are,” Wang told the Star in an interview. She said housing affordability, job creation, transit improvement and the environment are the top priorities for her campaign.
She also supports the government’s effort to expand the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which runs from Alberta to a terminal in Burnaby. Singh has repeatedly attacked the Trudeau government’s decision to buy the existing pipeline for $4.5 billion, and highlighted his opposition to the expansion project when he announced he would run in Burnaby South last August. He has said he would push for more affordable housing and spending for a new hospital in the riding.
“I believe (the) economy is the foundation for everything — for families, for communities,” Wang said, applauding the Liberal government’s small business tax cut, which took effect this week and lowered the rate to 9 per cent from 10.
The seat in Burnaby South has been vacant since September, when NDP MP Kennedy Stewart stepped down to run for — and ultimately become — mayor of Vancouver. After Singh decided to run there, Green Leader Elizabeth May said her party wouldn’t name a candidate in honour of a “leader’s courtesy” for party leaders that don’t have seats in the House of Commons.
Other parties didn’t follow suit. The Conservatives named lawyer Jay Shin as their candidate last fall. The Liberals nominated Wang, after complaints from the NDP that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t call the byelection earlier.
Shin’s campaign and the Conservative party did not respond to requests for an interview Thursday.
Peter Julian, an NDP MP who represents a neighbouring riding, said Burnaby South residents have been “denied a voice in Ottawa” since the fall, and that the Liberals have put their own interests ahead of what’s best for voters.
“There is a lot of disappointment on the ground when it comes to Mr. Trudeau’s government and hopefully soon, they will be forced to face the voters,” he said in an emailed statement.
Trudeau has said he will schedule byelections in Burnaby South and two other vacant ridings — Montreal’s Outremont and York Simcoe north of Toronto — for some point in February.
There is now a fourth vacancy in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, after NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson resigned to run for a provincial seat.
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga