BURNABY, B.C. — Justin Trudeau said the Liberal candidate in Burnaby South will be a strong voice for the community, as he campaigned on Sunday in the riding where New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is seeking a seat.
The prime minister told a crowd of supporters that Richard T. Lee served Burnaby, B.C., for 16 years as a provincial legislator and continues to work hard every day to put the best face forward for the city.
"We need strong local voices standing up for you, fighting for you in Ottawa, and that's exactly what Richard is going to be," Trudeau said.
"Nobody make any mistake: The Liberal party is going to win this riding of Burnaby South."
Lee is a former provincial legislator who replaced the Liberals' first candidate, Karen Wang, after she resigned following an online post in which she contrasted herself, the "only" Chinese candidate, with Singh, who she called "of Indian descent."
Singh is seeking his first seat in Parliament in the byelection, scheduled for Feb. 25, and earlier Sunday he attended the annual Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver.
After the parade, Singh called on Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege to allow former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak about allegations the prime minister's office pressured her to tell federal attorneys to drop the SNC-Lavalin prosecution in favour of a remediation agreement. Trudeau has denied his office "directed" her.
While the Green Party of Canada has extended a "leader's courtesy" to Singh by not running a candidate against him, other parties have not. Conservative Jay Shin and People's Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson are also vying for a seat.
The New Democrats narrowly beat the Liberals in the riding in the 2015 election by about 550 votes. The Conservatives placed third, losing by about 3,600 votes.
Lee said he's proud to be part of "Team Trudeau" because he believes in transparent, better politics and a strong, multicultural Canada.
"In Burnaby South, we need a committed, local champion for our community," he said, adding he has lived in the Metro Vancouver city for 32 years.
Singh is a former Ontario legislator who has been campaigning in the riding since last summer.
Trudeau was met by protesters on both sides of the political spectrum at the Burnaby event. Outside, demonstrators clad in yellow vests spoke out against his government's policies on migration.
While Trudeau and Lee spoke inside the event, a small group of people began shouting anti-pipeline slogans. Burnaby is the terminus of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau's government has purchased and plans to expand.
"I think we also hear a reminder tonight that there are going to be people out there who choose the politics of anger, of fear and of division, and try to shout people out," Trudeau said.
"But Liberals will stay focused on serving Canadians, on bringing people together and building a better future for us all."
A number of Liberal MPs stood behind Trudeau at the event, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. But absent was Wilson-Raybould, who represents Vancouver Granville and earlier attended the city's Chinese New Year Parade.
Trudeau later attended a Chinese New Year celebration gala at a restaurant in Vancouver's Chinatown. He told the packed gala that the Chinese-Canadian community has contributed greatly to the country over generations.
He also said racist, xenophobic policies such as the Chinese head tax or the exploitation of Chinese labour during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway constituted some of the most shameful chapters in the country's history.
"We cannot forget, for they remind us of our collective responsibility to stand up to discrimination and persecution in all its forms," he said.
Trudeau did not take questions from reporters at either event. He is set to make an affordable housing announcement and hold a media availability at a rental housing development in Vancouver on Monday before meeting with Telus CEO Darren Entwistle.