Talking with Tanj

Past UMSU president Tanjit Nagra finishes second in provincial elections

At just 23, Tanjit Nagra has become a career politician.

Before Nagra took second place as the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate for MLA of the Fort Richmond riding in last week’s provincial election, she held a different title — UMSU president.

The 2016 UMSU election was one of the tightest in the union’s history, and Nagra took the title by just 39 votes and held a mixed-slate executive for her first term. Her second year as president was more of a sweep, with the incumbent’s slate taking all five executive positions.

She stepped into provincial politics while still a student of the Asper School of Business at the U of M — she would have been the youngest MLA to ever hold the position — and her first thoughts of running came from her concern about how the Pallister government was approaching education cuts.

“I didn’t like where we were headed as a province, in terms of the changes to education,” she said.

She said she was approached by members of both the Liberal and NDP parties who were interested in having her on as a candidate.

“I wasn’t a fan of our current government — and I still am not — and some of their changes to education, to healthcare, I think Manitobans deserve a government that takes climate change seriously, that allows local representatives to have a say in their community,” she said.

Her time working with Progressive Conservative MLAs made it apparent to her the party was using a “top-down” approach to governance that she said she felt is the wrong fit for the province.

“Often they are great individuals and I have no issues with them personally, but I don’t necessarily agree with their leaders’ politics,” she said.

Dougald Lamont, a former staff researcher for UMSU who ran as the leader of the Liberal party personally requested Nagra put her name forward, and at that point, she said it was “hard to say no.”

While she was considering running, she was concerned about being “branded as a Liberal,” but said she doesn’t see herself straying too far from the red path in the future.

While Nagra has been involved with the Liberal party since 2015, when she took part in Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid’s federal campaign, she emphasized she had always “kept [her] non-partisanship” when it came to her run as UMSU president.

“Federally, I’ve been involved with the Liberals, but I was always very cautious of my involvement during my term at UMSU, because I wanted to ensure that we were able to work with any party and any politician to achieve our goals.”

While Nagra said the future is not concrete, she has plans to go back to work as a youth engagement activator at non-profit youth service network TakingITGlobal, start taking MBA classes again, and to take time to recuperate. She said she has already been approached by several party members about running in the next election, but has not yet made a decision to run again.

“A year ago, I didn’t know I’d be running for MLA in Fort Richmond,” she said.

Nagra also plans to work with Duguid again on his federal campaign.

While the provincial results were not in the Liberals’ favour, Nagra said Manitobans had sent a message.

“Obviously the election result is unfortunate, and I think it’s clear that Manitobans wanted change, especially in Fort Richmond, but they weren’t necessarily decided on what change was.”