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NDP names challenger for Richmond East

Gian Sihota is the NDP
Gian Sihota is the NDP's candidate for Richmond East.
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New Democratic Party candidate Gian Sihota will challenge Liberal Linda Reid in Richmond East in a spring election that's already heating up.

The NDP acclaimed Sihota at a nomination meeting Jan. 26, days after Scott Stewart announced he was seeking the party's nomination in Richmond-Steveston. The party has yet to announce any candidates for the Richmond Centre riding.

Sihota, 65, said voters are seeking an alternative to the B.C. Liberals ahead of the next provincial election May 14.

"People are fed up and not very happy with the B.C. Liberals because of their neglect and mismanagement over the last 12 years," he said.

Sihota is president of the Richmond East riding association and serves on the party's provincial executive. He's retiring this week from a 31-year career as a transit operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company. In that span he has also served in various positions for the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111.

Sihota is married with three children and lived in Richmond for 30 years before moving to his current home in Ladner.

He made an unsuccessful run for the Richmond East seat in 2005. Voters are now looking for change in a riding held by Reid since 1991, he said.

"It has been a long time, so people are not very happy with her performance. Although she has done some good things, she has not really come up to the challenges the people are facing now," he said. "I feel proud to be a part of this team so I can help make this change for the better for all British Columbians, and in particular Richmond East members."

His interest in politics started as a student in India, where he earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in economics. After arriving in Canada in 1970, Sihota found the NDP to "resonate with his own values" and soon joined the party.

Traffic congestion, dumping on farmland and "Richmond's Enbridge Pipeline" are all issues the NDP challenger says he'll work on, if elected.

Sihota said the Liberal government hasn't done anything to alleviate the long-congested area of Steveston Highway and Highway 99, and has waited until "election time" to start public consultations on the future of the George Massey Tunnel.

"They didn't do anything until now. And even now with those public consultations it's going to take 10 years before they come up with any plan. People are very fed up with that."

Sihota doesn't favour a new bridge because that, he said would eat up fertile farmland. Noting 77 per cent of tunnel traffic is single-occupancy vehicles, Sihota said more investment in rapid transit could be an answer to traffic woes.

A protest over fill on a Finn Road farm has highlighted the need for the provincial government to step in to save farmland, he also said.

"People don't want to see Richmond losing agricultural land."

A further issue facing East Richmond is the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation proposal to barge jet fuel up the Fraser and pump it across Richmond to the airport through a new pipeline.

"This is not a good plan. This is not a good proposal. In the first place it should have not even gotten to the point it is now," said Sihota, noting he favours upgrading the existing pipeline that connects the airport with the Chevron refinery in Burnaby.

Also planning to run in the riding is Green candidate Ping Chan. A professional engineer since 1980, Chan says his concerns include justice, the environment and peace issues. Other focuses include "grossly inadequate hospital equipment," seniors housing and "financial abuses of Crown corporations," according to the party website

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