6 potential candidates for Team Trudeau following Karen Wang fiasco in Burnaby South
Over the past 24 hours, the consensus among Canada's chattering classes is that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will cruise into Parliament.
That's because his prime opponent, Liberal Karen Wang, quit as a candidate in the Burnaby South by-election.
This came after she told people on a Chinese social-media site that she was the only Chinese person running—and that Singh is of "Indian ancestry".
UBC political scientist Richard Johnston even told the Vancouver Sun that the Liberals shouldn't field a candidate.
Instead, Trudeau might be wise to extend a "leader's courtesy" to allow Singh to run unopposed by them.
The Greens have already done this and are sitting out the by-election in Burnaby South.
One unnamed cabinet minister told CBC's David Cochrane that the resignation of Wang may not be a bad thing. That's because it might make it easier for Singh to win, which is what many Liberals want.
Many feel that Justin Trudeau would make mincemeat of the NDP leader in a federal campaign.
Here's another argument for the Liberals to sit out the by-election. The conventional wisdom is that if Singh were to lose in Burnaby South, he would resign as leader.
That could conceivably clear the way for a more experienced federal New Democrat to lead the party into the October 21 election.
Jagmeet Singh plans to stick around
However, Singh dismissed the idea of stepping down in a recent interview with the CBC's Rosemary Barton.
He insisted that he will be the leader when the general election is called later this year.
And it's very hard to oust someone in his position on such short notice. The caucus can't do it. It would require a party convention, which would distract the NDP from its election planning.
So if Singh truly plans to stay regardless of the outcome of the Burnaby South by-election, this increases the incentive for the Liberals to field a strong candidate and win the seat.
That's because if the Liberals triumph, it will create more chaos in NDP ranks, undermine the NDP's fundraising capabilities, and possibly save Liberal seats in areas with large South Asian populations, such as Brampton and Surrey.
Also, in this era of data-driven politics, the Liberals may not want to pass up a chance to put someone forward.
This could be for no other reason than to gather information about voters and attract volunteers, which would further the party's chance in the riding in the next federal election.
The deadline for the Liberals to name a candidate in Burnaby South is February 4.
With all of that in mind, here are some potential candidates.
1. Cyrus Eduljee
A senior product manager at Stemcell Technologies, Eduljee lost the Liberal nomination to Wang. This would be a low-risk approach for Trudeau.
That's because if Eduljee lost, the Liberals wouldn't lose face with the electorate because expectations would be low. Plus, the riding association could still use the by-election to raise money, attract volunteers, and test Eduljee's popularity before the federal election.
But there are also downsides: Eduljee has a relatively low public profile, he's never run before, and he could be slaughtered so badly that it would turn Singh into the 2019 comeback story of the year, which could hurt the Liberals in the general election.
2. Lee Rankin
Rankin is a lawyer and former Burnaby Citizens Association member who spent 22 years on Burnaby council. He chaired Metro Vancouver's finance committee for a few years before breaking with the BCA, which is linked to the NDP.
His wife Rajini is a former B.C. NDP candidate and urban planner of South Asian ancestry. Her presence at campaign events would be helpful for Trudeau in blunting the sting of Wang's remarks about Singh's Indian descent.
Rankin ran as the lost-cause B.C. Liberal candidate in Burnaby-Edmonds in 2009, yet still attracted 38.36 percent of the votes.
As a federal Liberal in New Westminster–Coquitlam–Burnaby in 2000, Rankin won a respectable 31 percent of the vote.
The Rankin name still carries some weight 17 years after the death of former Vancouver councillor Harry Rankin. Lee Rankin is his nephew.
But there's a problem with a Lee Rankin candidacy: he's criticized the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion in the past, which might rule him out.
It would be tempting for Trudeau to put him forward because Rankin is an NDP apostate—and the Liberals need the support of those who've voted NDP in the past. It could be a test run to see whether it would be worth bringing him back in the October campaign.
3. Patty Sahota
A long-time director of Westminster Savings and vice president of Flavelle Oceanfront Development, Sahota represented Burnaby-Edmonds in the B.C. legislature from 2001 to 2005, making it into cabinet as the minister of state for resort development.
She's also been on the board of Simon Fraser University, thanks to the former B.C. Liberal government, and was an adviser to Gordon Campbell when he was leader of the Opposition.
Trudeau might see some value in running a woman of Indian ancestry against Singh in advance of the next federal election. It would keep the South Asian media interested, though Sahota's former ties to Campbell could also come under criticism in the Indo-Canadian Voice.
Unlike Singh, Sahota was born in India and was raised in B.C., growing up in Merritt.
4. Adam Pankratz
An adjunct professor of strategy and business economics at the Sauder School of Business, Pankratz very nearly defeated former MP Kennedy Stewart in 2015 in what was considered a safe NDP fortress.
In fact, Pankratz handily beat Stewart on election day, but the New Democrat captured the seat because he had an even larger margin in the advance poll. For the Liberals, the advantage of running Pankratz is that they wouldn't have to create new signs and advertisements—they could just roll out what they already designed in 2015.
Pankratz may not want to run in this election, however, because after you lose twice, you become a far less attractive candidate in the future.
5. Christy Clark
This is the biggest long shot of them all. But why not run Clark? She grew up in South Burnaby, graduated from Burnaby South secondary, and represented Burnaby Mountain in her first term in the B.C. legislature.
Plus, Clark is a supporter of the Trans Mountain pipeline and she worked as a political aide in the Jean Chrétien Liberal government of the 1990s.
And just imagine the amount of national media attention that a Clark-versus-Singh race would receive.
The former B.C. premier has said she's "done with public life" and Trudeau may not want a celebrity candidate with such high wattage taking the spotlight away from him. There's another problem for Trudeau—the B.C. Liberals were thoroughly trounced in Burnaby in the last provincial election.
But for a political creature like Clark, the thought of defeating Singh and redeeming herself in her old stomping ground of Burnaby must surely be tempting.
6. Richard Lee
The low-key four-term B.C. Liberal MLA for Burnaby North would be a fairly safe choice for Trudeau.
That's because Lee is experienced enough not to make any major mistakes, unlike Wang, and he would solidify Chinese support in the riding, which is essential if the Liberals hope to win the seat in the general election.
Lee repeatedly won elections in Burnaby North, which was previously a safe NDP seat, and he did it by constantly showing up at events and graciously interacting with whomever was in attendance. He also developed good relations with Indigenous people during his long tenure as an MLA, which could prove useful to Trudeau.
Lee was a parliamentary secretary for Asia Pacific Strategy in the Christy Clark government, and that's not a bad calling card in a riding with a large number of immigrants from the Asia Pacific region.
He was born in Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China and speaks fluent Cantonese, which ensures he would generate lots of coverage in the Chinese-language media.
Lee is 65 years old and he might not be interested in flying back and forth constantly from Ottawa to Vancouver. But it's still too early to count him out.More