PENTICTON - Penticton B.C. NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed says he jumped into politics with both feet over two years ago when, while looking for someone to support in the Penticton municipal election he was asked, “Why don’t you run?”
“That’s how I got involved," Sayeed says. "I ran a successful campaign, probably one of the lowest budgets of the candidates that got in."
"I care for the people, I really do, and for me it’s important to represent all the people of Penticton,” he said sitting with campaign manager Veronica Harrison who insisted on participating in the interview, several times interjecting and prodding answers.
Sayeed said he comes from a strong family background in politics from his homeland of Bangladesh.
“My grandfather was a freedom fighter, my uncle helped write the constitution of Bangladesh, and my cousins are currently sitting MLAs, MPs, and mayors,” he says. (A man bearing the same last name is indeed credited with writing the constitution.)
At campaign manager Harrison's urging, Sayeed recounted how his first opportunity to vote as a Canadian citizen was during the Penticton municipal election.
“The first vote I cast in Canada was for myself. Now I will be voting at the provincial level guess who I will be voting for?” he says, calling it a great Canadian immigration story.
Sayeed and his wife Tahira came to Penticton eight years ago from Toronto, intending to try it for a year after he was hired by Valley First Credit Union. The couple have since made Penticton their home, and over the years Sayeed has become well known in technical circles and as two-time presenter in TEDx events.
In January 2014, Sayeed was recognized as Penticton's Top 40 Under 40 for "demonstrating excellence in community service, entrepreneurship, innovation, and business".
Harrison advised Sayeed to talk about how he lived a comfortable life in Penticton working at Valley First until he realized he was missing something.
“I saw a lady struggling to buy something at Safeway one day. She was having difficulty communicating, and left in tears. I found out later she was deaf,” Sayeed says, adding the encounter changed his perspective.
“I left Valley First and started my own tech company, using gesture recognition technology and American sign language and convert it to corresponding text and voice,” he says, calling the project a “successful failure.”
“I share that story to illustrate how I need to be representing all the community,” he says.
Sayeed says he’s motivated in politics to be the voice of all the people.
“I don’t want to bring the voice of the legislative assembly to the people, it should be the other way around,” he says.
Asked to name something not many people know about him, he answers that he enjoys watching movies and travelling.
“My goal is to run out of passport pages before it expires,” he says, adding he’s well on his way.
Harrison pressed Sayeed to speak about his accomplishment as one of the top national cycling champions in Bangladesh in the 1990s.
Sayeed is running for MLA under circumstances similar to incumbent Dan Ashton, who was also an active Penticton councillor when he ran in mid-term for provincial office.
Ashton said at the time, if elected, he would pay the cost of the by-election for a new councillor, which he did after winning the election.
Sayeed said he could technically continue with both roles if elected MLA.
“The people have elected me for a term, and I would like to keep my commitment. Having said that, my focus is to win the election, After that, we will revisit and check to see if it’s realistic,” he says.
Sayeed says the local issues that motivate him are Penticton’s homeless population, calling the situation one of neglect by the present provincial government.
He also sees education and housing affordability as the other top issues in Penticton, getting assistance from Harrison in describing the NDP’s plan for a $30 million B.C. Community Fund, targeting 70 per cent of the funds to rural communities such as Penticton.
Sayeed also said the NDP would review and freeze B.C. electrical rates. Harrison again prompted Sayeed to talk about his meetings with teachers arne others who told him parents were sending their kids to school with Kleenex and food in order to support the present system.
“I think the main point there is education has been underfunded for 16 years, and what teachers are looking for is stable, committed funding,” Harrison said.
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