NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu was formally sworn in as the MLA for Vernon-Monashee on Tuesday.
Sandhu was officially elected Sunday, Nov. 8, after mail-in and absentee ballots were counted over two and a half days.
The Vernon nurse garnered 10,222 votes to unseat three-term Liberal incumbent Eric Foster, who collected 9,798 votes, a difference of 424 votes.
Sandhu is the first NDP candidate to win the riding since the 1980s.
She had trailed Foster by 182 votes at the end of election night, Oct. 24.
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, exactly one month after election night, Sandhu was welcomed to the legislative assembly floor via Zoom for the official swearing-in ceremony.
“It feels amazing, and it feels like now I can officially say I am the MLA for Vernon-Monashee,” Sandhu told the Morning Star shortly after the Zoom session.
“I bring diversity, a health-care background and a background for average working-class parents, and I am so grateful to the entire Vernon-Monashee for giving me the opportunity.”
Last week, Sandhu had a one-on-one meeting with Premier John Horgan – a meet-and-greet that doubled as a chance to discuss priority issues in Vernon-Monashee.
Sandhu said her time spent campaigning, working at the Vernon hospital and speaking to local councillors has given her a sense of the issues that locals care about.
Among those issues she brought to Horgan’s attention were the struggles for small businesses during COVID-19, revenue shortfalls among farmers and orchardists, health care and other support services for seniors, housing affordability and homelessness and the current strain on emergency rooms — particularly for incidents concerning mental health.
“These are the top (issues) I can think of right now, that I’d like to focus on as a priority,” Sandhu said.
She said the meeting with Horgan went well, leaving her feeling reassured by the premier’s attentiveness to issues facing her urban and rural constituents.
Sandhu steps into the MLA’s job for a riding that’s grown accustomed to BC Liberal leadership, but she looks forward to the challenge of finding common ground between constituents of all political stripes.
“Given the demographics and the different party interests and history (in Vernon-Monashee), I take it as an opportunity, and I am keeping that front-and-centre in the work I will do to keep in mind differing opinions and to make sure that I serve everybody fairly,” Sandhu said.
“I think working collaboratively is the only way to work effectively and to address everybody’s concerns.
“I always said and believed, before my political journey, that we should put our personal agendas aside when it comes to people’s betterment.”
Sandhu aims to be approachable when it comes to fielding thoughts and opinions from residents from all political leanings.
While she hasn’t settled on an office space yet, her team is actively looking at several Vernon locations.
In the meantime, she can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Please feel free to come talk to me, reach out to me,” Sandhu said.
“I don’t want anybody to feel left behind when I’m representing my constituents.
“That’s my top priority.”