Jay Shin’s campaign office was teeming with life when I entered.
The headquarters for the Conservative Party of Canada’s Burnaby South candidate were delegated to the top floor of a nondescript office building. People seemed in a frantic rush but the mood felt exceedingly optimistic and hopeful.
The office was only a short walk from Jagmeet Singh’s own campaign HQ. Ten minutes away, NDP volunteers packed SUVs and rushed off to door knock in what is coming to be an exciting election that’s captivating the nation’s attention.
Every story has humble beginnings, Jay Shin’s is no different.
Immigration and his career in corporate law
The Burnaby South byelection is Shin’s first ever political campaign. Before running for federal office, Shin was a corporate lawyer who assisted foreign investors interested in operating in British Columbia and beyond.
“This is my first foray into politics, it’s exciting, it’s fun,” said Shin. “I’ve been going out and meeting people, knocking on doors, hearing what people have to say. It’s a real joy.”
Shin described his career in corporate law as a natural progression from him and his family’s early experiences as a Korean immigrant.
“I came to Canada in 1975 with my parents. It’s a typical immigrant story. My father had an engineering career, but you know how it is, foreigners can’t get qualified easily here, so he had to create a job for himself,” said Shin.
“He ran a small corner grocery store, a convenience store. I saw how hard my parents worked. So the reason I became a lawyer was really to help the small business people and I’ve done that here in Burnaby south.”
In his wide-reaching career Jay Shin has worked for both international and Canadian law firms mainly in the domain of corporate and commercial law.
Shin has also taught law at Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea and at the University of British Columbia as an adjunct professor.
“I’m proud to say that I brought in significant investment into Burnaby, into British Columbia,” said Shin. “I’m hoping that that sort of skill that I have as a business lawyer can translate into my role as a member of parliament.”
The decision to pursue federal office
Less than a month after the byelection was called, Burnaby South has already made national headlines. Most people enter the political world incrementally but Jay Shin seems to have opted for plunging straight into the shark tank.
I was curious to find out what Jay Shin’s motivations were, and why he chose this moment to run and whether he was considering it before?
“It was in the back of my mind. At this stage in my life I want to find the opportunity to give back to the country that gave our family that opportunity to live here,” said Jay Shin.
“The most recent impetus that made me decide was actually back in 2017 when the Trudeau Liberal government basically labelled small businesses as tax cheats and wanted to implement tax measures that were going to be so hard on the people that are trying to get ahead.”
Shin was talking about Trudeau’s 2017 reforms to small business tax deductions which Trudeau suggested were being used by the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.
Reaching the voters in Burnaby South
Shin’s election strategy seems to be an orthodox Conservative campaign: small business and low taxes.
Throughout our conversation Shin would refer back to these two issues as the crux of the problems facing Burnaby South.
“Their real concern is taxes. Right now people are paying their income tax, they know that their property tax is going to go up,” said Shin. “We need to lower taxes so that people can keep more for themselves. The idea that the government taxing you, thinking that they’re going to be able to spend your money better than you is simply wrong.”
In many ways, Shin’s concerns as a corporate lawyer seemed to blend with his goals as a potential politician.
All eyes on Burnaby South
The Burnaby South byelection has already made media headlines several times.
First off, the election was delayed nearly until the February deadline and more recently, the Liberal party has gotten themselves into a national scandal when their former candidate Karen Wang broadcast messages on social media relating to Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity.
“Her comments were very offensive,” said Shin. “As a Canadian in 2019, there’s really no room for that type of message. It’s simply wrong for one candidate to tell the people that you shouldn’t vote for that somebody because of that person’s ethnicity.”
On the topic of Jagmeet Singh, Shin seemed to take the higher ground and point out Singh’s lack of connections to the local community.
“He’s not from here. His home is Brampton, Ontario,” said Shin. “So how much does he know about Burnaby South? How much does he know about what matters to people of Burnaby South? So yes, that’s something that he has to answer for.”
An orthodox Conservative message
Jay Shin seems to be intent on hammering the CPC platform and molding his own campaign to its likeness.
As a professional and a newfound politician, Shin seems to check all the boxes for a potentially successful Conservative candidate. His background and accomplishments are a testament to that.
However, for a riding that has leaned left for that last few federal elections and for such a high profile race, it is yet to be seen if Shin’s message will resonate with voters.