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Conservative Wai Young beats Dosanjh in rematch

Conservative candidate Wai Young in her campaign office in Vancouver, April 6, 2011.

Brett Beadle for The Globe and Mail/brett beadle The Globe and Mail

The riding of Vancouver South was expected to be a bellwether for the major parties' strategy of attracting visible minorities. The candidates for all three major parties, like much of the riding itself, are immigrants to Canada with significant bases of support in the riding.

As the campaign evolved, however, it became clear that none of the candidates could rely solely on ethnic solidarity to carry them to victory. The ethnic communities did not vote as a bloc.

Conservative Wai Young edged out incumbent Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, relying on her strong connections to the Chinese community and an unexpected boost from the NDP surge, which took away a sizable chunk of the Liberal vote.

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Ms. Young pointedly ignored the English-language media and counted on being carried into office by the blue wave, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and federal Conservative policies. The shift in the public mood did the rest for her.

Two hours after the polls closed, Mr. Dosanjh conceded defeat. But he expressed no regrets.

"I've had a great run," he told a crowd of about 100 despondent supporters at his campaign office. "From a village in Punjab where I did not speak a word of English … having the privilege of serving as a MLA and premier and federal minister of health, what more can you expect from a little kid from a village?" he asked.

Mr. Dosanjh said he worked harder in this campaign than ever before but he did not have "an ounce of regret."

He added that his political career was over and that he did not intend to run again. (Mr. Dosanjh's office had him trailing by about 2,700 votes three hours after the polls closed.)

Mr. Dosanjh said he told his wife and sons they should not weep for him. "I have other things to do in life," he said adding that he wanted to help the Roma gypsies of Europe. "Many other issues call me," he said.

Ms. Young, who watched the results with friends, went to a private dinner afterward. She did not make any comments publicly before deadline.

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Mr. Dosanjh, a former B.C. premier, had squeaked in with a margin of 20 votes over Ms. Young in the election in 2008. In anticipation of the rematch with her, Mr. Dosanjh never stopped campaigning. He tried to reach out to all groups in the riding over the past three years by raising national and local issues, and holding regular community meetings to keep voters engaged.

Meena Wong, the NDP candidate, ran on NDP policies without attracting much attention until the final days of the campaign. Her support was solid and her supporters came out to vote, an election-day campaign worker said Monday.

The riding has one of the largest immigrant populations in the province, with immigrants and children of immigrants accounting for about 75 per cent of the 118,905 residents. About one-third of the residents are from China or are the children or grandchildren of parents born in China, according to the 2006 census. About 15 per cent are from Pakistan or India. The city's colourful Punjabi market and the close-knit community of religious Sikhs dominate the area.

Mr. Dosanjh tried to chip away at Ms. Young's support in the Chinese community by stirring up local issues.

He drew attention to an endorsement that she received from Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik, who remains a controversial figure even though he was acquitted of criminal charges arising from the mid-air bombing of an Air-India flight that killed 329.

Mr. Dosanjh and Ms. Young also sparred over the federal family reunification program and construction of a seniors home in the riding.

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In the final hours of election day, Mr. Dosanjh and Ms. Wong took to the streets in the riding to shake hands and solicit support, while the Conservative, Ms. Young, stayed on the phone, making quiet calls to get out her vote.

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