NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Wins Critical Seat in Burnaby South Byelection

Singh will be the first non-white party leader to sit in the House of Commons.
February 26, 2019, 5:10am
Jagmeet Singh
Photo by Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

Jagmeet Singh has won the House of Commons seat for Burnaby South in one of three byelections across the country on Monday, in the biggest test of his leadership of the NDP thus far.

With 180 of 196 polls counted Elections Canada reported Singh winning with 38.5 percent of the vote, followed by Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee at 25.8 percent. Conservative Jay Shin placed third with 22.9 percent.

The race was seen as a make-or-break contest for Singh, who would have faced pressure to step down as the party leader ahead of the upcoming federal election.

The win will give Singh, who has been largely absent from the Ottawa political scene since he won the leadership race almost 18 months ago, some much-needed visibility in Canada’s parliament.

The 40-year-old former MPP for the Ontario NDP has faced repeated criticism over a seeming lack of familiarity with Canada’s foreign policy, low poll numbers, and a leadership track record under which 11 of the 44 New Democrat MPs who won seats in 2015 say they won’t be running again in 2019.

The results bring to an end to a turbulent race in Burnaby South, which saw the first Liberal candidate Karen Wang become embroiled in controversy after she posted a message on WeChat, urging Chinese voters to vote for her because she was the only Chinese-Canadian candidate, and pointed out Singh’s Indian origin.

The riding also saw the rise of People’s Party candidate Laura-Lynn Thompson, who received just under 11 percent of the vote. Thompson is a former Christian radio host and anti-abortion activist who was accused of politicizing the murder of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen, who was allegedly killed by a Syrian refugee in July 2017.

Ontario candidate Scot Davidson held on to a Conservative seat in York-Simcoe, while Liberal Rachel Bendayan will take over the Montreal riding of Outremont, which was previously held by former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

—With files from Tamara Khandaker

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