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Teresa Wat, B.C. Liberal candidate for Richmond Centre, says she was pushed by her husband to give back to the community.
Teresa Wat, B.C. Liberal candidate for Richmond Centre, says she was pushed by her husband to give back to the community.

Hard-working immigrant joined politics in response to ailing husband’s plea Add to ...

For many years, Teresa Wat just did not feel she had time to give back to her community.

As a young journalism student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she kept her head down, studying hard and making the honour roll – “a typical Hong Kong student,” she says.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend – whom she went on to marry – was involved with the student movement and nudged her to do the same.

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“He always believed we should give back to our community,” said Ms. Wat, the B.C. Liberal candidate for Richmond Centre. “I was just the opposite: I was a hard-working student – I always got good marks – but I just didn’t have time for community because I put too much time into my studies.”

It was much the same after graduation, when her focus shifted to her work: first as a reporter, next as a sub-editor in charge of broadcast news for Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, and then a sub-editor for a television news station in Hong Kong. In 1989, seeking a better life for their young daughter, she and her husband immigrated to British Columbia. Ms. Wat worked as a communications manager for two B.C. government ministries, including multiculturalism, and eventually moved into the office of B.C. NDP Premier Glen Clark.

“Ideologically, I did not agree with their philosophy, but as a professional civil servant, I did the best I could,” she says. Of her transfer into the premier’s office, she adds: “Being a new immigrant here, I did not realize that once you work for the premier’s office, you are labelled as partisan.”

After her work in government, Ms. Wat ventured back into journalism, becoming the news director of Channel M Television (now Omni) and then CEO of CHMB AM 1320, once again keeping her nose to the grindstone.

But things changed in 2003, when her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. His efforts to get Ms. Wat involved in the community suddenly carried more weight. He reminded her there was more to life than her career.

“He kept saying, ‘When I’m in heaven, you don’t have to look after me,’” Ms. Wat said, becoming emotional.

“‘Do give back to the community.’ I will always remember that.” He died two years ago. When outgoing Richmond Centre MLA Rob Howard asked if she would be interested in running to replace him, she said yes.

Mr. Howard calls Ms. Wat a “dedicated professional” whose beliefs and principles he feels “Richmondites” share.

“I see in Teresa a remarkable individual who has accomplished much and is willing – in fact, wanting – to contribute to her community,” he said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

While Ms. Wat doesn’t live in the riding – she is caring for her parents in Burnaby – most of her day-to-day activities are in Richmond, she says. She cites safety and the economy as priorities. As well, she noted Richmond residents have among the longest life expectency in Canada, meaning more services and facilities for seniors will soon be needed.

The other candidates in the historically Liberal stronghold are New Democrat Frank Huang and B.C. Green candidate Michael Wolfe.

Follow on Twitter: @andreawoo

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