Why the NDP nomination of Meena Wong could help Kennedy Stewart and Don Davies

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      This afternoon (March 6), the federal New Democrats will officially nominate Meena Wong as their candidate in Vancouver South.

      The left-wing community activist has little chance of winning the riding, which is held by Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh.

      But Wong's presence on the slate could help other NDP candidates across the region.

      In 2008, Dosanjh defeated Conservative candidate Wai Young by just 20 votes in Vancouver South. New Democrat Ann Chambers trailed both of them by more than 8,700 votes.

      In a rematch expected this spring, Dosanjh and Young will likely end up in the top two positions, with Wong acting as the spoiler.

      The only question is whose campaign Wong will spoil.

      Can she draw enough progressive support to put Dosanjh's career in the Dumpster? Or will she thwart the Conservatives by attracting enough first-generation Chinese Canadians who might otherwise vote for Young?

      But Wong's real value on the federal NDP slate will be to improve the fortunes of other candidates, particularly Don Davies in Vancouver Kingsway and SFU professor Kennedy Stewart, who was recently nominated in Burnaby-Douglas.

      Like Vancouver South, those two ridings have a large number of Chinese-language voters.

      Wong speaks fluent Cantonese and Mandarin, which will boost the federal NDP's profile in local Chinese-language media outlets during an election campaign. She could end up being the most often-quoted federal NDP candidate in the region, though people who follow English-language media outlets would never know this.

      In the last three federal elections, the NDP has not fielded a single candidate in the Lower Mainland who could speak Cantonese or Mandarin. It's a sorry record, and speaks to the party's traditional insularity.

      As a result of not having Lower Mainland candidates of Chinese descent in the last three elections, party leader Jack Layton had to resort to bringing his wife, Toronto-area MP Olivia Chow, to Vancouver to get more coverage in the local Chinese-language media.

      On other occasions, the federal NDP relied heavily on Vancouver-Mount Pleasant NDP MLA Jenny Kwan. Recently, however, Kwan has lowered her profile since speaking out against former provincial leader Carole James.

      The NDP is well-positioned to attract support in the coming years from growing numbers of Mainland Chinese immigrants. Wong's presence on the slate should help in this regard, particularly if she runs in more than one federal election.

      Another benefit is that the party will now be able to send a local candidate to various Chinese-language election forums.

      Then there's the value of having Wong available to knock on doors with Davies in Vancouver Kingsway and with Stewart in Burnaby-Douglas.

      Davies's biggest threat is Liberal Wendy Yuan, who should do well with Chinese-speaking voters. Stewart will try to hold Burnaby-Douglas against Conservative Ronald Leung, who has a high profile in the Chinese-language media.

      Meanwhile, the federal New Democrats have also nominated two candidates of Punjabi descent in Surrey: Jasbir Sandhu in Surrey North and Jinny Sims in Newton-North Delta.

      Both Sandhu, a restaurateur and community leader, and Sims, a former B.C. Teachers' Federation president, have good chances of getting elected.

      In the last two elections, the federal NDP didn't run any candidates of Punjabi descent, which undermined the party's ability to gain Punjabi-language media exposure and attract votes from this community across the Lower Mainland.

      That won't be a problem this time with two articulate, intelligent candidates of Punjabi descent running in winnable ridings in Surrey.

      It's too early to say if the federal New Democrats can replicate the success of 1988, when they took 19 of 32 ridings in B.C.

      But if voters decide to punish both the federal Liberals and the Conservatives for voting for the harmonized sales tax, this spring could become a watershed moment for the federal New Democrats in B.C.

      And if so, one reason will be the party's decision to nominate a more diverse and inclusive slate than in previous elections.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.




      Mar 6, 2011 at 1:11pm

      "In the last three federal elections, the NDP has not fielded a single candidate in the Lower Mainland who could speak Cantonese or Mandarin. It's a sorry record, and speaks to the party's traditional insularity."

      Come on...it's 2011 and this province just had TWO parties go through a leadership contest with only 1 visible minority...who dropped out!

      The NDP are running a visible minority in a lost cause and the writer is trying to spin this as something that will help out the two white guys running in large Asian ridings.

      Come on -- it's 2011
      It ain't insular...it's racism esp when it's a bunch of holier than thou Centrist creeps who no longer have anything meaningful to offer the public except appearance, vote splitting and privilege.

      Red Haranguing

      Mar 6, 2011 at 3:29pm

      And exactly when was Stewart Kennedy chosen as the candidate in Burnaby-Douglas?

      Red Haranguing

      Mar 6, 2011 at 4:23pm

      Just found the story myself, but thanks for the link.

      My computer was down for much of the past two weeks, and I haven't kept up with my reading.

      Ken Lawson

      Mar 6, 2011 at 5:59pm

      That is a good one Charles what do Mainland Chinese know about politics, they do not exactly have democracy there , but Hong Kong Chinese yes. But she still is not going to win.


      Mar 7, 2011 at 1:02am

      Yes, Meena Wong can speak Cantonese and Mandarin. No, the NDP are not poised to pick up a lot of Chinese votes. The Conservatives are running at least three Chinese candidates in the Vancouver area, two who are fluent in the language, one (Alice Wong) who is a Parliamentary Secretary and well-known MP in the Chinese community. Also, Chinese tend to be more conservative. As a Chinese-Canadian myself, I know most Chinese people don't like the NDP's stances on taxes, crime, and social policy. Also, the HST issue has died down drastically since Gordon Campbell stepped down.

      Nick L

      Mar 8, 2011 at 9:20pm

      For sure, the federal election is coming soon. Ronald Leung resigned his job on fedeal government and Meena Wong resigned her job of Adrain Dix MLA assistant for the candidates. Honestly, Ronald Leung has more than 45% to win but Meena Wong get nothing. Of course, go out for election may not only for winning the MP but can help the Party candidates to win. Especially in this case, NDP Meena Wong can help Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh to win the Vancouver-South , on the other hand, Liberal Ken Lowe can help NDP Stewart to get the seat of Burnaby-Douglas. Obviously, the result of the election has only two cases- Conservative majority government or a Liberal-NDP-Quebecoi coliation goverment.

      Who is she?

      Mar 10, 2011 at 3:41pm

      I don't think Wong has ever worked as constituency assistant for Adrian Dix. She's never been identified by his office as working for him.

      Nick L

      Mar 10, 2011 at 6:43pm

      Yes, she never mentions what is her job !!!


      Mar 12, 2011 at 12:24pm

      Meena is presently a facilitator with Vancouver Coastal Health. She worked on the winning campaign to help get Don Davies elected as MP in Vancouver Kingsway. When she lived in Toronto, she was constituency assistant for the office of Olivia Chow. She has done lots of community outreach for many organizations including COPE and Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

      She's a great candidate for the NDP, with a good network, and will work hard for the constituents of Vancouver South.