British Columbia Battlegrounds: Jagmeet Singh tries to lead the way in Burnaby South

The NDP leader will be in tough federally—could his own riding be up for grabs?

Credit: Jagmeet Singh on Twitter

The NDP leader will be in tough federally—could his own riding be up for grabs?

We’re not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a federal election coming up in October. In the coming weeks, BCBusiness will profile the ridings in the province that are most vulnerable, according to Today’s edition focuses on Burnaby South.

Around this day four years ago, it looked like Canada’s next prime minister would be Tom Mulcair. The leader of the Opposition had performed well in debates and looked primed to storm the House of Commons with the rest of his orange-clad colleagues.

That, obviously, didn’t happen, and the NDP lost more than half the seats it previously held, plunging from 95 to 44.

Things aren’t much better heading into the 2019 federal election. Some polls predict that the NDP will again see its support in the House cut in half, while national numbers have the party at about 13 percent of the popular vote. That’s not going to cut it. 

So with the election about a month and a half away, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh might be shaking in his boots a bit. Can he at least retain his Burnaby South seat and avoid total embarrassment at the polls? Let’s see. 

What happened previously?

NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart barely held onto the seat (which was created from the Burnaby-Douglas and Burnaby–New Westminster ridings) in the 2015 federal election. But when Stewart resigned to (successfully) run for mayor of Vancouver, Ontario-based Singh challenged for his spot in a 2018 byelection.

Singh actually won by a larger margin than Stewart held, taking 38.9 percent of the vote. The Liberals and Conservatives achieved 26 and 22 percent, respectively.

Was it Singh’s star power that led to the surge? Maybe the area’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion? In any case, it was a good sign for the party leader.

Who’s running? 

Singh will obviously be back, and so will Conservative challenger Jay Shin. The latter was the candidate in that February byelection, his first foray into politics. The corporate lawyer accused Singh of stealing parts of the Tories’ housing plan and “keeping criminals out of jail.” He was also endorsed by the Vancouver Sun, for some reason.

So what will Shin do for an encore? He’s been mostly quiet so far, but his Twitter account seems to be taking aim at the Liberals. Probably not a bad idea—siphoning votes from Team Trudeau might be his best bet. 

That’s especially true because the Liberals seem to be in some disarray in Burnaby South. They haven’t announced a candidate in the riding since byelection contender and former BC Liberal MLA Richard Lee dropped out of the race months ago to care for his ailing wife.

The failure to nominate someone is understandable—the Liberals’ first byelection choice, Karen Wang, either resigned or was forced out of the race (it’s hard to tell, really) after questionable comments on social media platform WeChat.

Wonder if Justin Trudeau will be in the mood for another bold prediction?

After not running anyone in the byelection as a courtesy, the Green Party will be represented by MJR Electric project manager Brennan Wauters, who has reportedly worked in both Alberta’s oilsands and the renewable energy sector.

Businessman Al Rawdah will be running under the People’s Party of Canada banner and against “tax slavery.” Rawdah replaces anti-SOGI activist Laura-Lynn Thompson, who won 10 percent of the vote in the byelection. 

What are the key issues?

Likely similar to those that dominated the byelection: housing and the environment. The Liberals’ perceived failure to deliver on both those fronts is likely to hurt their chances here, as Singh and Shin will use any chance they get to dig into the government.

What do the polls say?

It’s one of the few constituencies in the country where the NDP appear to be in a good position. When it comes to the popular vote, Singh and company are in the lead, with 31 percent, followed by the Liberals (29 percent) and Conservatives (27 percent). In all, Singh was projected to have a 54-percent chance of winning the riding. Not bad.

But compared to other races involving a party leader, the NDP isn’t doing great. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, for example, is believed to have a 99-percent chance of winning Saanich–Gulf Islands.


Burnaby South is Singh’s to lose. If he does, it almost certainly means disaster for his party and his resignation as leader. But given that the Liberals have been quiet in the riding, Singh’s byelection win and the fact that it’s a traditional NDP stronghold, we can’t see it going anything other than orange.

Previous riding profiles: Burnaby NorthSeymour