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Meet the Canadian cancer researcher running for a seat in the British parliament

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WATCH: A Canadian man is vying for a seat in the United Kingdom's new parliament. Jeff Semple explains how Joe Slupsky became a candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party, and how Canadians living in Britain feel about the election.

Canadian Joe Slupsky is running for a seat in British parliament.

For the past 19 years, the native of Edmonton has lived in Liverpool, England, where he earned his PhD in medicine and now works as a prominent cancer researcher.

But after the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in 2016, he decided to enter politics.

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“It was a sort of [a] spur of the moment-type thing,” Slupsky told Global News at his home in Liverpool.

“My family is deeply affected by Brexit. My wife is German and there’s this imminent threat of deportation,” he said, referring to the hundreds of thousands of EU citizens who are still awaiting confirmation that they can remain in the U.K. after Brexit.

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“This is a country that we’ve decided to make our home, to grow old and and to live — and now that is being threatened.”

Slupsky is a federal candidate for the Liberal Democrats, which is fiercely opposed to Brexit and campaigning for a second referendum. The party is expected to finish fourth in the election, well behind the Conservatives and Labour Party, but it could hold the balance of power in a hung (minority) parliament.

Slupsky is running in the riding of Knowsley, which narrowly voted in favour of Brexit in 2016 by margin of 51.6 to 48.4 per cent.
Slupsky is running in the riding of Knowsley, which narrowly voted in favour of Brexit in 2016 by margin of 51.6 to 48.4 per cent. Jeff Semple / Global News
“I’m approaching 70 years old and I’ve never known [an election] as critical as this one,” said Ian Smith, a local councillor for the Liberal Democrats in Prescot, a municipality just outside of Liverpool.
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“I worry for my grandchildren and my children, so I’m doing what I can, as much as I can. And people like Joe [Slupsky] are flying the flag, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
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Asked how he feels about having a Canadian candidate, Smith said he was “a little intrigued at first. But actually meeting him and getting used to the accent, everything else has been great. It’s been a great experience.

“We’re an open, welcoming party. We’re inclusive. I think it’s a positive message and it’s one that the present [federal Conservative] government could learn from.”
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Slupsky is one of more than 90,000 Canadians living in the UK, according to the Canadian government. As citizens of the Commonwealth, they’re entitled to vote and run for political office.

History’s most prominent example of an Canadian-British MP was Sir William Maxwell Aitken, one of just three British cabinet ministers who governed during both the First and Second World Wars.

Slupsky’s candidacy comes at a time when immigration is a central issue for the election and the pro-Brexit campaign.

“People recognise that I have a different accent, but they don’t seem to mind,” Slupsky said. “But that could be because of my race. Could it be because of my skin colour? I’m not quite sure. But I don’t receive that type of abuse on the doorstep.”

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Slupsky is running in the riding of Knowsley, which narrowly voted in favour of Brexit in 2016 by margin of 51.6 to 48.4 per cent.

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It’s also one of the country’s poorest areas: in Stockbridge Village, Knowsley, 41.3 per cent of children are living below the poverty line, according to a recent report published by the End Child Poverty coalition. The area has been represented by Labour MPs since 1950 and is widely expected to vote for the party again.

“If you’d like to go to the bookie and take a bet on me, if I do win, you’ll become a very rich man,” Slupsky jokes. “The odds are astronomically against me.”

Nevertheless, he’s devoted his time, money and energy to the campaign to fight for his adopted country and community.

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“Every vote that goes to me, even in protest, is a vote that will be counted and noted in Westminster,” he said.

“If the Labour Party perceives that this seat can be lost, and if the other parties — including the Liberal Democrats — perceive that this seat can be won, there will be more put into this political effort, put into this seat to make things more equal.

“And that’s why every bloody vote counts.”