NDP MLA officially sworn in Tuesday to represent North Okanagan

Sandhu takes her seat

For the first time in more than three decades, a member of the NDP has been sworn in as the MLA for Vernon-Monashee.

Harwinder Sandhu was officially sworn in as the region's MLA during a ceremony Tuesday.

This is Sandhu's first time holding office after she defeated incumbent Liberal MLA Eric Foster, who held the seat for three terms.

A BC Liberal or Social Credit MLA had represented the region for the past 36 years, and Sandhu said she is honoured and humbled to have been elected.

Sandhu, a nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital before the election, said she will represent people in the region no matter their political leanings.

Having an MLA from the ruling party will also allow for a stronger voice for the region in Victoria, she said.

“If there is something my community needs, I will be the voice for them to make sure we get our fair share, to make sure we get what we need in a timely fashion,” said Sandhu.

Sandhu has taken the job during one of the most difficult times in provincial history as economic fallout from the COVID pandemic continues to mount.

“My main priority is supporting people through the pandemic,” said Sandhu, adding she recognizes the hardships people are going through.

“What are the key issues, the pressing issues we need to focus on and public services like mental health services and supports that are needed. I know from having worked in health care there is a long wait for mental health, and that puts strain on the emergency room ... and now with COVID, we need to ask for more services.”

Sandhu said she has already discussed several regional concerns with Premier John Horgan.

“I mentioned to the premier my list is huge, but I did give him some key issues that we need to focus on,” she said, adding the premier was attentive and engaged.

Sandhu is only the second female to hold the riding. April Saunders briefly held the seat as a Liberal in the 1990s. Sandhu is also the first person of colour to be elected to represent Vernon-Monashee.

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