NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his supporters celebrate his victory on Monday in Burnaby South.
Jason Payne / PNG
Jagmeet Singh aced perhaps the most important political test of his federal career to date when he won his first parliamentary seat Monday in a Burnaby South by-election.With the sound defeat of his five opponents, the New Democratic Party leader put to rest murmurs within his party that a defeat at the polls could throw the NDP into a leadership crisis scant months from the next federal election.“My friends, it’s a new day. It’s a new day,” Singh told jubilant supporters at a Hilton hotel in Burnaby during his victory speech.“Guess what? We just told a lot of kids out there that yes, you can.”Singh, a former lawyer who had served as a provincial politician in Ontario, became the first member of a visible minority to lead a national political party in Canada when he won the NDP leadership in 2017, but Monday’s by-election gives him his first seat in the House of Commons.Singh’s victory was marred by the NDP’s loss in Outremont, the Montreal riding that served as a launching pad for the orange wave that swept Quebec in 2011.Lawyer Rachel Bendayan reclaimed the riding for the Liberals with 42 per cent of the vote, even as the governing party struggles with the fallout from allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt criminal proceedings against Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.In a third byelection Monday, the Conservatives handily hung on to the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, which had been held since 2004 by former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Van Loan. Scot Davidson took 53 per cent of the vote for the Tories, well ahead of Liberal Shaun Tanaka with 30 per cent.Singh jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, finishing with about 38 per cent of the vote, beating Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee who finished second with about 26 per cent. Conservative Jay Shin finished in third place with roughly 23 per cent, while Laura-Lynn Thompson finished fourth with about 11 per cent, running with the People’s Party of Canada, the nascent party launched last year by failed federal Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier. A pair of independent candidates, Terry Grimwood and Valentine Wu, rounded out the ballot.Singh thanked his competitors for contributing to the democratic process.
Liberal candidate Richard Lee waits backstage prior to greeting his supporters at his headquarters for the Burnaby South by-election on Monday.
RICHARD LAM /
Lee was a longtime MLA representing Burnaby North for the B.C. Liberals for four consecutive terms until he was defeated soundly in the 2017 provincial election, by the NDP’s Janet Routledge. He took over as the Liberal candidate from day-care operator and political hopeful Karen Wang, who bowed out after writing an online post that singled out Singh’s ethnicity.Stakes were high for Singh and the NDP. Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said in a television interview on CTV last month that it would be “extremely difficult” for Singh to stay on as leader if he lost in Burnaby.The Burnaby South seat had been vacated by former MP and now Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. Stewart told Postmedia last Friday that he had been out door-knocking with Singh last week, and “it felt really good on the ground.”“I feel good that he’ll win there, and I think having him in the House of Commons will be not just good for the NDP but good for the country,” Stewart said.Harjit Sajjan, the Liberal MP for Vancouver South and the Minister of National Defence, was at Lee’s event Monday night. Sajjan said he was happy to support Lee, who he described as a “humble, great person.”“I’ve had the opportunity to go door-knocking with him as well,” Sajjan told Postmedia. “His compassion that he has for his community, that’s what really, I think, sets him apart.”The by-election fell as the federal Liberals are dealing with fallout from a scandal around allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office may have inappropriately pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. After the controversy, Wilson-Raybould resigned her position in cabinet, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned his position.Singh referenced oil and gas extraction, pharmaceutical profits and the ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal in his victory speech. “People should be angry,” he said.Lee, speaking after his concession speech, said he didn’t think the SNC-Lavalin controversy had a major impact on the Burnaby by-election.“I didn’t hear anything (about SNC-Lavalin) on the doorsteps,” Lee said. “All we heard was the local issues, and transportation, and how to support our young people so they can stay and work in our community. Those are the local issues, I believe, that are in people’s minds.”Peter Julian, MP for New Westminster-Burnaby, said voters who put Singh in office “were saying they want a fighter … someone who will stand up when the government makes bad choices.”With files from The Canadian Pressmrobinson@email@example.com