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NDP Leader Jack Layton in Burnaby, B.C. on Friday, April 30, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press)
NDP Leader Jack Layton in Burnaby, B.C. on Friday, April 30, 2011. (Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press)

NDP takes charge in Burnaby Add to ...

The orange crush held on to two seats in Burnaby, including the hotly contested riding of Burnaby-Douglas.

New Democrat Kennedy Stewart took the riding, which his party dominated for decades, but won only narrowly in 2008. Mr. Stewart, a public policy professor at Simon Fraser University, edged out Conservative Ronald Leung. Liberal Ken Low finished a distant third place.

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The NDP's Peter Julian won Burnaby-New Westminster, although his victory never appeared in serious doubt.

Mr. Stewart, who ran for the NDP and lost in Vancouver Centre in 2004, held a joint celebration with Mr. Julian at a Burnaby banquet hall. He received a standing ovation when he entered and after high-fiving his way to the podium raised arms in triumph with his fellow MP.



Mr. Stewart, who led the race from wire to wire and was about 1,000 votes ahead with just a few polls remaining, wasted little time getting to work. In his first question from reporters, he teed off on the Conservatives.



"The voters have spoken here in Burnaby-Douglas. They've rejected the Conservatives and said we're with the NDP and that's the message we're going to take to Ottawa."



The Conservatives secured a majority government Monday night, while the NDP made history of its own by becoming the official opposition. Mr. Stewart said the Conservative majority made his night "bittersweet."



"The Harper agenda is reckless, it's going to hurt Canadians, but we'll be right there to make sure we stand up to his bullying."



Mr. Julian, who arrived wearing an orange tie and large smile, said he is more than looking forward to serving with Mr. Stewart. "He's bright, he's articulate. … Kennedy Stewart is somebody that I admire a great deal," he said.



The banquet hall was a sea of orange, as plastic signs with the names of Mr. Stewart and Mr. Julian were draped over every seat. More of the orange and green signs were plastered along the walls.

Among the few hundred people at the gathering were the old, young, Caucasian, non-Caucasian, beer fans and wine drinkers.

The Burnaby-Douglas seat had appeared up for grabs after NDP MP Bill Siksay opted for retirement instead of seeking re-election. Even if he had run again, a win was hardly guaranteed, since his margin of victory in 2008 was 798 votes, or 1.69 per cent. The Conservatives had identified the riding as a stepping stone to a majority government, although they ultimately didn't need it.

The NDP marked a historic night by becoming the official opposition. During the final weekend of the campaign, party leader Jack Layton held a rally in the Lower Mainland community and drew such a large crowd police were forced to shut down a nearby road.

Burnaby-Douglas had about 112,000 residents in 2006, according to the census. More than half were visible minorities, and just under half were immigrants. About 30 per cent of constituents were identified as Chinese. Burnaby-Douglas was one of the ridings described in a leaked Conservative strategy document as "very ethnic."

Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at SFU and a political observer, said the riding's make-up has changed greatly in recent years, tightening the race.

"You've got this old, aging demographic of Burnaby, which has always been pretty much an NDP stronghold. Now what you have is this whole immigrant melting pot, mostly Chinese, and these guys aren't traditionally NDPers," he said.

The riding has not only an ethnic vote, but also a student vote - Burnaby-Douglas is home to both SFU and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Each of Mr. Siksay's wins was a squeaker. In 2004, he beat Liberal Bill Cunningham by 934 votes, or 2.06 per cent. In 2006, he knocked off Mr. Cunningham, this time by 1,244 votes, or 2.55 per cent. Mr. Siksay's narrow win in 2008 came against Mr. Leung.

Mr. Leung is well-known for his work as a current-affairs commentator for Fairchild Radio. He was criticized during the campaign for not making himself available for debates or interviews.

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