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Politics

Federal Liberals tap former B.C. MLA Richard Lee as new candidate in Burnaby South

WATCH: Former B.C. Liberal MLA Richard Lee is set to face off against Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh after the Liberals dropped Karen Wang for controversial online comments. Nadia Stewart reports.

After a rocky week, the Liberals have found a new candidate for the Burnaby South byelection.

Former B.C. Liberal MLA Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the race, joining the party days after former candidate Karen Wang left the race over a controversial social media post.

Wang dropped out as the Liberal candidate on Wednesday after a Chinese-language post on WeChat appeared to urge voters to support her as the only candidate of Chinese origin and singled out Singh as being “of Indian origin.”

READ MORE: Jagmeet Singh says NDP caucus is unified under his leadership after recent hiccups

Lee served as MLA for Burnaby North for 16 years starting in 2001 before losing re-election in 2017. He served as deputy speaker in the legislature for the last two of those years, the first MLA of Asian descent to hold the role.

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“I’m proud to call Burnaby my home, and this byelection is about ensuring Burnaby South has a strong voice in Parliament to help make life better for families in this community,” Lee said in a statement released Saturday.

READ MORE: Liberal candidate Karen Wang steps aside after pointing to Jagmeet Singh’s ‘Indian origin’ on WeChat

“I’m looking forward to working with Justin Trudeau to keep making progress on Burnaby’s priorities, like investing in new affordable housing and better transit, creating good middle-class jobs, and protecting a healthy environment for our kids and grandkids.”

A day after resigning, Wang sent a request to the Liberal party asking to be brought back on as their candidate, claiming the message was misunderstood. She also tried to make her case to the media at an impromptu news conference in Burnaby on Thursday.

WATCH: Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh under pressure to win Burnaby-South byelection

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh under pressure to win Burnaby-South byelection
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh under pressure to win Burnaby-South byelection

The Liberal party rejected Wang’s plea and is now moving on with Lee as its candidate.

“The statement made by our former candidate in Burnaby South was unacceptable and not acceptable as the sort of politics I put forward,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “That is why the individual is no longer a part of our team.”

WATCH: ‘I am not a racist’: former Liberal candidate Karen Wang holds emotional press conference

‘I am not a racist’: former Liberal candidate Karen Wang holds emotional press conference
‘I am not a racist’: former Liberal candidate Karen Wang holds emotional press conference
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The message, first reported by the Toronto Star, was translated as reading: “If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the byelection, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this byelection is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!”

“Recently I have been labelled as a racist, which really, really makes me hurt,” Wang told reporters. “I am not a racist.

WATCH: Will former Liberal candidate Karen Wang run as an Independent?

Will former Liberal candidate Karen Wang run as an independent?
Will former Liberal candidate Karen Wang run as an independent?

“Chinese people, whenever you see the news about the candidate, news on Chinese media, they normally point to that he has a Chinese background and she has a Korean background, things like that,” Wang continued. “But Korean or Chinese background, it means Chinese Canadian or Korean Canadian.”

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