"It's time for change," says Vancouver South NDP candidate Amandeep Nijjar
As she knocks on doors around her riding, Vancouver South NDP candidate Amandeep Nijjar says one message is loudest among her constituents: Stephen Harper needs to go.
It was the struggle to find day care for her two young children that spurred Amandeep Nijjar into the world of politics. She was trying to juggle family time with full-time work as a finance officer, and couldn’t come up with a supervision solution that really suited her needs.
“I was looking for part-time care, but when I was calling daycares there was a long waitlist — a five year waitlist,” says Nijjar, a mother to daughters, two and four years old. “I found that not having a system in place was really frustrating for me, so that’s what really got me into the swing of things.”
At the end of July, Nijjar was thrilled to learn she would be the NDP candidate for Vancouver South in Canada’s 2015 federal election, presenting her with an opportunity to bring average family challenges to the forefront of political chatter in her riding.
According to her experience campaigning in the neighbourhood, it's a most welcome discussion among her constituents.
“When I talk to Canadians door-to-door, that’s what they’re telling me,” she says from her election office on Fraser Street. “That’s what moms are facing out there — (lack of) affordable, quality childcare.”
A need for child care, a need for affordable housing — the list of common problems faced by many Vancouverites goes on and on, says Nijjar, but atop the list is something a little unexpected.
Be gone, Stephen Harper!
“There is one strong message and they want Stephen Harper out,” she says. “That’s the one message we’re hearing constantly.”
The feedback would seem contrary to testimony from Conservative incumbent Wai Young, who recently told Vancouver Observer that many constituents in her riding support the “strong leadership,” “strong economy,” and “stability,” of the veteran Tory Prime Minister.
Nijjar doesn't buy it however, and believes Vancouver South is ready for something new.
“They want change,” she explains, “they are tired of the policies and what the Conservatives have done to Canadians.”
The Tories, which have been in power under Harper since 2006, are “just not working with families,” the candidate adds, and the NDP is best positioned to oust the incumbent Prime Minister.
“We are the Official Opposition and we can do that,” she says firmly. “The NDP will get Stephen Harper out and we want to deliver that change, we want to be that change.”
So why vote for Nijjar?
Service and safety
Born and raised in Vancouver, Nijjar has always served her community even as a high school student at John Oliver Secondary School. In Grade 10, she helped build a traffic light at 41st Avenue to improve road safety for school children, and she later went on to become part of the B.C. Federation of Labour’s Young Workers’ Committee, where she travelled between high schools to talk about the importance of occupational safety.
"We felt that talking to students at a young age just got the message out there that health and safety in the workplace is important," she explains. "It was also about the Employment Standards Act.”
Nijjar is an experienced finance officer, and currently manages the finances of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) 378, which represents more than 12,000 workers around the province.
This makes her well-suited to look after the financial needs of her constituents, she argues, particularly when it comes to keeping a balanced budget.
“I have a background in finance and of course my community activism would make me a great candidate," she says. “I feel as if I am the voice for many Canadians in this constituency... I want to represent Vancouver South."