Decisive Liberal win for Harjit Sajjan in Vancouver South

Incumbent Liberal candidate Harjit Sajjan has retained his seat in Vancouver-South, drawing even more votes than his last decisive victory in the riding he grew up in and still calls home.

Sajjan had garnered more than 49 per cent of ballots as of late Monday evening, surpassing the 41 per cent at the final tally of the 2019 election. He has served as minister of defence since first elected in 2015.

CTV News asked Sajjan how he felt to see more support pour in despite the cloud of misconduct allegations hanging over the Canadian Forces and the government’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan.

“My community knows me,” he said. “When we talk about things that happened 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago — obviously we’re going to take action. And now that more women are coming forward, having the confidence to come forward, yes we’re taking action.”

Sajjan went on to say he will continue to work against racism and sexism, and the former military reservist and Vancouver Police Department gang squad detective insisted he isn't deterred by the challenge.

“We can’t change things overnight,” he said. “Racism is on the rise, misogyny is also on the rise. But one thing I can assure you. myself, is our leader and other members of the Liberal party will continue to stand up strong.”

When asked whether he’d like to continue in the defence portfolio, Sajjan demurred and said he had no expectations, but would serve in whatever role the prime minister called upon him to fill.

A MINISTER REPEATEDLY IN THE HOT SEAT

Sajjan won the riding despite being the minister in charge of the Canadian Forces at a time that one scandal after another undermined confidence in leadership and cast a shadow over the service.

The then-minister of defence justified his handling of sexual misconduct allegations by insisting he had to be hands off to let the process unfold. And though he vowed to fight the culture that saw several senior leaders leave their posts, it’s unclear how Sajjan planned to do that.

More recently, the Liberal government came under fire for calling an election as western forces pulled out of Afghanistan, stranding interpreters and allies who were desperately trying to emigrate to Canada, many of whom are still there after their applications were rejected or mired in red tape.

One former interpreter warned the Canadian government could have blood on its hands if it failed to rescue Afghans who’d worked with the Canadian military, as well as their families.

Shortly before the election was called, Sajjan was under fire for hiring an old friend from his military reserve and Vancouver police days as an aide, even though Greg McCullough was found guilty of misconduct for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate in the VPD.

A RIDING THAT HISTORICALLY FLIPS-FLOPS

In 2019, 33 per cent of the vote went for Conservative Wai Young. The NDP took nearly 19 per cent of the vote, with 5.7 per cent going to the Greens and 1.2 per cent to the People’s Party of Canada.

This time, the NDP candidate had more votes than the Conservatives' Sukhbir Singh Gill, a realtor and entrepreneur.

The riding has flipped back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives (or the then-Progressive Conservatives) for decades. It was held by Young from 2011 to 2015, and by Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh from 2004 to 2011, with his last victory in the riding being one of the closest races in Canadian electoral history.

In the 2011 general election, the results went to automatic judicial recount and Dosanjh ultimately beat Young by just 20 votes. They each had just over 38 per cent of ballots cast.