The Burnaby South byelection was shaping up to be an afterthought: a vote slated less than a year before a general election that would have no impact on the ruling Liberals in Ottawa.
Then Jagmeet Singh made the decision to move across the country and take a shot at finding his way into the House of Commons.
WATCH: Keith Baldrey with a preview of Burnaby South byelection
The NDP leader has been without an electoral home his entire time as leader and hopes that winning a seat will give him a chance to showcase his political skills against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In January the race took a bizarre twist when Liberal candidate Karen Wang resigned after pressure from the party. She had made controversial comments on a Chinese-language social media platform suggesting voters should vote for her as a Chinese-Canadian opposed to Singh because he is of “Indian descent.”
WATCH: Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says it’s ‘ludicrous’ to think Liberals want him to win
Wang apologized and contends she is not a racist. But the Liberal party moved on and recruited Richard T. Lee to run for the party.
The debates have also become a spectacle of their own. The last one involving the four major candidates descended into chaos as candidates hurled attacks at each other and the debate was constantly interrupted by hecklers.
Amid all this chaos, some Burnaby South residents may still be trying to figure out what distinguishes the parties and the candidates.
If you find yourself in that boat – whether you don’t have time to comb through all of the promises or are struggling to cut through the noise – don’t panic.
Global News has prepared a straightforward breakdown of who the candidates are, what’s at stake and where they stand on some big policy issues.
Why are we here
The byelection was triggered in Burnaby South when Kennedy Stewart stepped down as the MP to run for the mayor’s job in Vancouver. Stewart won the job but decided to officially resign on Sept. 14, more than a month before the municipal election.
It then took Trudeau nearly four months to officially call the byelection.
WATCH: Kennedy Stewart gives victory speech after winning Vancouver mayoral race
A victory by the Liberals would move their seat count in the House of Commons to 180, with 19 in British Columbia. A Conservative win in Burnaby South would bump them up to 97 seats and 10 in B.C. A NDP win would give the party 41 nationwide and 13 in B.C.
There are two other byelections happening on Monday, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario.
Recent riding history
New Democrat Kennedy Stewart was the first-ever MP for Burnaby South. The riding was created for the 2015 election and Stewart won with 16,094 votes.
But it wasn’t easy for Stewart: the de facto incumbent beat Liberal Adam Pankratz by just 547 votes. Conservative Grace Seear finished third with 12,441 votes.
Burnaby South was created mostly by Burnaby-Douglas and in parts from the riding of Burnaby-New Westminster.
2015 Federal Election Results
NDP – Kennedy Stewart, 16,094 votes, 35.07%
Liberal – Adam Pankratz, 15,547 votes, 33.88%
Conservative – Grace Seear, 12,441 votes, 27.11%
Green – Wyatt Tessari, 1,306, 2.85%
Libertarian – Liz Jaluague, 499, 1.09%
Burnaby-Douglas 2011 Federal Election Results
NDP – Kennedy Stewart, 20,943 votes, 42.99%
Conservative – Ronald Leung, 19,932 votes, 40.92 %
Liberal – Ken Low, 5,451 votes, 11.19%
Green – Adrianne Merlo, 1,754 votes, 3.60%
Libertarian – Lewis Clarke Dahlby, 420 votes, 0.86%
Burnaby-Douglas 2008 Federal Election Results
NDP – Bill Siksay, 17,937 votes, 37.94%
Conservative – Ronald Leung, 17,139 votes, 36.25%
Liberal – Bill Cunningham, 9,177 votes, 19.41%
Green – Doug Perry, 2,822 votes, 5.97%
Getting prepared to vote
Polling stations will be open on Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The hours are different than in municipal and provincial races, so be aware the doors will close at 7 p.m.
There have already been four days of advance polling, with 5,462 voters showing up at the polls. That is a turnout of 7.2 per cent, which is typical of a byelection, but low for a general election.
The other crucial thing to be aware of is whether you actually live in the riding. Just because you live in Burnaby doesn’t mean you live in the riding of Burnaby South. Elections Canada has all the details online to determine whether you live in the riding or not.
If you’re registered to vote, you should have received a voter information card by mail by Feb. 5 that tells you where to vote. If you haven’t registered yet, and you are eligible to vote, you can register at a polling station on Monday.
You can also find out where your polling station is based on your postal code by visiting Elections Canada.
Terry Grimwood, Independent
The 66-year-old lives in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast and wants to lead a political party called Canada Fresh. The retired builder has some political experience under his tool belt, having served two two-year terms on North Vancouver council in the 1970s.
Richard T. Lee, Liberal
The former four-term BC Liberal MLA is making a bid to return to public office after losing his Burnaby North seat to the NDP in the 2017 provincial election. Lee was not the original candidate for the Liberals, being thrust into the opportunity after Karen Wang resigned over offensive comments.
Jay Shin, Conservative
A Vancouver lawyer, Shin was raised in part in Burnaby and his parents still live in the city. He has already signed on to run for the party in the general election in October. This is his first foray into elected office.
Jagmeet Singh, NDP
The national NDP leader moved to Burnaby South as part of his bid to become the local MP. He has promised to remain in Burnaby and run in the riding as long as he is a national leader. Singh has not had a seat in the House of Commons since he won the leadership in 2017. He previously served as an MPP in Ontario.
Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, People’s Party of Canada
The anti-SOGI advocate and former religious television host ran last year (and came short) for a Burnaby school board seat. Tyler Thompson does not live in Burnaby South but lives close to the riding and spent a lot of time during her childhood in the community.
Valentine Wu, Independent
The Green Party isn’t running a candidate in Burnaby South. But there is a former BC Green Party candidate in the race. Wu ran for the party in Burnaby Edmonds in the 2017 provincial election. The now independent candidate got 13 per cent of the vote in 2017.
It is hard to find a jurisdiction in Canada now where affordability is not the number one issue, be it taxes, housing, or child care. All of those issues resonate with people and are lumped into the larger idea of affordability.
“Things are more expensive now,” Shin said. “People are worried that taxes are going to go up. We need to make the economy grow. We are losing competitive advantage compared to the U.S.”
On child care specifically, Lee touted the Liberal plan. He says it provides up to $5,600 in support for parents in Burnaby South each year. But Singh rejects the assertion the plan has actually done anything for actual child care affordability.
“The support from the federal government is very insignificant. The majority is being funded by the B.C. government. If all the government can point to is a child tax credit in the face of affordability, it’s not much of an achievement,” Singh said.
“We are talking about universal access to medication, medication coverage for everyone.”
Homes in Burnaby South are expensive. It’s not a new story but it’s one you can’t escape at the water cooler, coffee shop or around the dining room table. The federal Liberals have pledged record breaking investments in housing and made it a staple of the national campaign in 2015.
“I am really excited to see the Liberal plan of a national housing strategy, an investment of $40 billion over 10 years,” Lee said.
But Singh says no new housing has actually been built under the plan. The Liberals have finished up already promised homes, but Singh questions the speed by which the current government has worked.
“The plan is not working. People are not in a better position. As a national leader, I will push this government to deliver more now. More cooperative housing, more non-market housing,” Singh said. “They have talked about housing. They have not delivered.
“They talk a good game and they are not delivering any change to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The NDP has been calling for 500,000 units of affordable housing to be built over the next decade.
The Conservative candidate and PPC candidate have been spending a lot of time during the campaign bringing up the issue of crime and public safety. Shin is calling on more police resources and more funding for Burnaby RCMP.
“We need to allocate our resources. We can allocate more for policing. For our young people, for our seniors,” he said.
Tyler Thompson says she has met people who live near Burnaby’s Central Park who complain about increased crime and have seen many of their neighbours leave because of it. The murder of teenager Marrisa Shen has also been brought up as a reason for more policing and stricter restrictions on immigration.
“It is not the same place. They have had break-ins along the street. We have also had the tragic death of Marrisa Shen in Central Park,” Tyler Thompson said. “The accused is someone who was a refugee and someone who was vetted.”
The Trans Mountain pipeline may not end in Burnaby South, but the community has been ground zero for the pipeline expansion project. The now federally-owned pipeline project has just received another thumbs up from the National Energy Board and Ottawa will take into the spring to decide whether to proceed with the expansion.
“We are investing $1.5 billion for protecting our water, the Ocean Protection Plan,” Lee said. “That will create jobs, that will create relationships with the Indigenous people.”
The Conservatives are opposed to the government’s purchase of the existing pipeline for $4.5 billion and a plan to go ahead with the expansion.
“They spent that money without a clear plan on how they were going to get it built. That money could have been spent on affordable housing,” Shin said.
“It was in private hands. If they wanted to divest of it they could have sold it to another private company. The risk is now in the hands of the taxpayers.”
Singh called the pipeline approval a “mistake” and that problem was compounded by the government’s purchase of the pipeline.
“This project from the outset was a failed project,” Singh said. “It failed on environmental concerns and people had raised that numerous times. It failed on the rights of Indigenous communities. It was a sham of a public consultation process and that was proven in court.”
Tyler Thompson says the PPC want to see pipelines built.
“We want to repeal the carbon tax, reform equalization payments so there is more fairness between the provinces, we want to protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are things that are important to Maxime Bernier. He is the most courageous guy,” Tyler Thompson said.
Race politics took centre stage in Burnaby South with the resignation of former Liberal candidate Karen Wang. Wang asked for the votes of Chinese-Canadians because she is Chinese-Canadian and Singh is of “Indian descent.”
Wang later apologized to Singh and told reporters she wasn’t a racist. But the comments alone focused a lot of attention on ethnic background.
“I intend to represent everyone, whether their background is Korean, Sri Lankan, Chinese, European, Japanese, South Asian, Vietnamese, African or Indigenous – anyone who calls Burnaby South their home,” Singh said at the time.
“People here expect no less.”
The riding of Burnaby South is diverse. According to census data, 38.7 per cent of people in the riding identify as Chinese. The next closest demographic is 32.2 per cent who identify as European descent, with 8.4 per cent as South Asian and 6.2 per cent as Filipino.
When asked if he is encouraging voters to vote for him because he is Chinese-Canadian, Lee said that shouldn’t be a factor.
“People will vote for me because of the Liberal values, for democracy, for world law, for multiculturalism, for diversity. I think those are the values we value,” Lee said.
The Jagmeet Question
Policies aside, what will define this byelection is the presence of Jagmeet Singh. If the NDP leader can win on Monday he will earn his place in the House of Commons. If he loses he will no doubt face internal criticism that could cost him his job as party leader before October’s federal election.
Singh has been criticized for not being from Burnaby South and solely being a political opportunist. He now has a good retort to the question he has faced many times.
“I am the only candidate that lives in Burnaby South. If people care about the environment, we have already seen the track record of the Liberals: they purchased a pipeline,” Singh said.