New candidates challenge NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South riding

·3 min read

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife decided to hit the campaign trail with a Polaroid camera to capture 36 days on the road when the election was called just a few days after the couple announced they're expecting a baby.

Singh and Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu are taking a photo each day, he said in an interview between campaign stops in Coquitlam, B.C., next to his riding of Burnaby South.

"Maybe when our little munchkin's older we'll say, 'If you're wondering what was going on you were still on your way into this world, we were on a campaign and these are some of the things that we did and some of the places we went.'"

Singh must balance campaigning nationally with reaching voters in Burnaby South, where he was first elected in a February 2019 byelection after former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart resigned to launch a successful bid for mayor of Vancouver.

He was re-elected in the general election that fall, which saw the Conservative candidate gain ground over the Liberal compared with the 2015 election, the first time the riding was contested since its creation in 2012.

The new Liberal candidate, Brea Huang Sami, said constituents need a stronger local voice in Ottawa and that's partly what drove her into this first foray into politics.

"We need someone who is committed to (pay) deep attention and put focus on the local people … and that's what I can offer, right away, for my neighbours here," said Sami, an accountant and mother of three kids aged eight, nine and 10 who has lived in Burnaby since emigrating from China about 16 years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic also spurred Sami to think about what kind of future she wants for her children and to invest her time and energy in serving her community, she said.

Asked why voters should support her, Sami said that as a woman and an immigrant, she understands "what racism and discrimination mean to a person."

Sami also points to increasing affordable child-care spaces, the national housing strategy and the first-time homebuyer incentive as key Liberal achievements.

The campaign manager for the new Conservative candidate Likky Lavji said he was unavailable for an interview. A biography posted on the party's website says Lavji is a Ugandan refugee to Canada and a business owner involved in several community service initiatives related to food security and fundraising for cancer research.

Gerald Baier, a professor in the political science department at the University of British Columbia, said Singh would have run for a seat in Ontario by now if he was seen as an outsider having trouble hanging on to support in Burnaby South.

It doesn't appear that the latest candidates to challenge the NDP leader have the experience or high enough profiles to unseat him, Baier added.

Singh said Burnaby is his home and he draws motivation from the stories he hears from constituents.

Their concerns mirror those of people across Canada, he said, from the effects of climate change to a lack of affordable housing and mental health services to struggles paying for prescription medication.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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