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Liberal candidate Lee 'ashamed' of Harper stance on climate change

“One of the key reasons I am running in this by-election is because I am ashamed of our government,” federal Liberal Party candidate Ken Beck Lee told The Tyee.

Lee, an environmental engineer who advises the United Nations on projects related to climate change, meets with other such consultants throughout the world.

“I was ashamed because Canada is the only country that doesn’t believe in climate change. [The Harper government] keeps saying, ‘No, this is not caused by greenhouse gas emissions…’” Lee said. “It’s embarrassing.”

So Lee, a newcomer to politics who only joined the Liberal Party of Canada earlier this year, accepted an invitation to run for parliament in New Westminster-Coquitlam -- a race that has been dominated by Conservative candidate Diana Dilworth and NDP candidate Fin Donnelly.

“My close friends, my family, they say, ‘Are you nuts?’” Lee chuckled. But the 60-year-old is running a vigorous campaign, and appears to be enjoying the process.

“I’m learning the most amazing things,” he said. “Politics is the only profession in which you say you will do one thing, then you do another thing, and still you succeed. If you do that in business, you are dead.”

Lee, who emigrated from Korea when he was 28 years old, worked as an engineer for the City of Surrey before launching his own firm. He said he joined the Liberal Party of Canada because of their approach toward immigration, and in gratitude for the assistance a Liberal MP provided his family decades ago.

Lee believes his chances are better than they appear, however, because of the growing Korean and Chinese populations in the suburban riding. His campaign office is located in the “Hanin Mall,” a Coquitlam plaza dominated by Korean businesses.

“Practically speaking, this really is between the Tories and the NDP at this point,” said Craig Monroe, president of the B.C. wing of the federal Liberal Party. “They’ve traded the riding back and forth.”

Monroe acknowledged that his party needs to do better in the suburban swing riding, and suggested that the Lee campaign represented the beginning of a rebuilding process.

“If we lose, no one is going to be particularly surprised,” Monroe said. “And if we win, then of course it’s a big story.”

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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