By: Alex Bloom
In the lead up to the Burnaby South by-election on February 25, I spoke (separately) to all three recognized party candidates over the phone. You can read my interview with Jagmeet Singh, NDP, and Richard Lee, Liberal.
I began my conversation with Jay Shin by asking him how he thinks his legal background and qualifications have made him the ideal candidate for Burnaby South. He responded by describing how he grew up in Burnaby and studied engineering at UBC, where he also got a law degree. He then became a business lawyer, and has been for over two decades.
“I helped small businesses here in Burnaby and my family has a small business background as well so I understand the business needs,” Shin went on to say. “Also, as I became more experienced as a lawyer, I was able to bring in business investment into the Burnaby area as well.”
He emphasized that small businesses are integral to the economy. “I think 95% of the economy depends on small businesses so I think that legal background helps me because at the end of the day the economy needs to grow and to create opportunities for young people like you,” says Shin. His daughters are currently attending UBC and they share the same worry that many university students face: finding employment after graduation.
I asked him if his top priorities for young people included the housing market and job creation, and he replied with “Definitely.”
“I understand also that a lot of the young people that are coming out of school, good schools like Simon Fraser, UBC, BCIT here, they’re not always able to find jobs,” Shin elaborated. “Many of the young people are leaving the province because of that reason. That is a big priority for me.
“My concern is that we have a Liberal government that’s overspending, wasting our tax money, when they [spend] $4.5 billion to buy a pipeline. Now, in fact, they say they spent $1 billion too much.”
According to Shin, this is $1 billion dollars that could have been spent “more efficiently, effectively for people that need it, including young people [. . .]”
Shin says he wants to support universities, to in turn help young people with their careers. He told me he is in favour of any program that will help train university students for the job market. “Simon Fraser has a strong co-op program as well [. . .] anything that’s focused on training young people I’m all for that.” He adds, “We just need to make sure we have the financial resources to do that from the federal government.”
Shin has also served as an adjunct professor at Hanyang University in South Korea and at UBC.
“My experience teaching at Hanyang University — and also at UBC, adjunct there — gives me a better understanding of what the students are looking for and what their needs are,” Shin said.
Moving on from the topic of education, I asked Shin to explain his stance on green energy, and he says he’s all for it “but we need to have a balanced approach.”
For Shin, getting energy resources to market is important. “That’s going to create opportunities to improve our economy and therefore increase the tax revenue, which we can then allocate to investing in sustainable, eco-friendly opportunities.”
He followed up with a question of his own: “For any candidate to say ‘oh we need to shut down the pipeline’ and so forth and then invest in sustainable energy, where would that money come from?”
Shin says he’s in favour of good use of tax resources, and that it is important we invest in green energy. However, in his opinion, “Everybody is taxed too much right now, so I don’t think it’s fair to go to the Canadian people and say, ‘hey, we’re going to raise your taxes’ to invest into green energy opportunities.”
Shifting to a more specific question, I asked him what his thoughts were on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, and its proximity to the surrounding community including SFU. Shin remarked on how the infrastructure already in place is aging.
“This is an expansion of the existing pipeline; it’s an opportunity for us to use newer, much safer technology,” he said. He compared this to other options for oil transportation such as railroad cars, where “the potential for harm is much greater. We had recent derailments, one carrying oil, and the environmental impact of that is much more severe.”
In Shin’s view, the project is an opportunity to make the area safer. His main concern is in the transfer of ownership from a private corporation to the Crown. ”Private corporations, it’s their liability if something goes wrong. But now, now that the government owns it, if something does go wrong, it’s going to be taxpayers on the hook, and that’s something I don’t agree with.”
“So I’m for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, [but] I think it’s an opportunity to improve on it, to make it safer.”
Talking about the election as a whole again, Burnaby South has been a riding in which the Conservative party has historically not been popular. I asked Shin what he thinks will make things go differently this time around.
“I’ve been door-knocking for the past three, four months now, and one consistent concern I here from people is that things are getting more expensive,” he replied. “Once again, people — they know that the Liberal government that’s in power has wasted their tax money. And the campaign to balance the budget by 2019, they clearly haven’t done that. According to them, it’s not going to be balanced until 2025. Deficits do not balance by themselves.”
Addressing the NDP’s position, Shin went on to say that he does not believe they will be forming the government in 2019, and that because of this, they won’t be held accountable for their campaign promises.
“People understand that, people think about ‘what is the practical, most positive way to make things better?’ [ . . . ] I think this is an opportunity to send the right message to Ottawa on the 25th, saying that we here in Burnaby South — in Burnaby as a whole, I guess — do not like the way the government is run right now.”
Shin then went on to explain his stance: “I’ve been talking about how Jagmeet Singh, as a parachuted-in candidate, is using Burnaby South as a political bus stop to salvage his political career. Kennedy Stewart did the same thing, he used Burnaby South as a political bus stop so that he could become the mayor of Vancouver.” In his opinion, the NDP is taking Burnaby South for granted, and he thinks the voters agree.
According to Shin, voting for him and the conservative party in this by-election would send that message. “In Burnaby South, we have previous NDP candidates who really didn’t do a whole lot to help Burnaby. And [Kennedy Stewart] quit on us to become the mayor in Vancouver.”
To find out if you are eligible to vote, and how to vote if you are, you can check Elections Canada’s website.