This is one of five profiles of the candidates for the Abbotsford electoral district, which includes most areas south of Bateman and Maclure roads and east of Mount Lehman Road. For links to the other profiles, see the bottom of the story. Watch The News and Abbynews.com for profiles of candidates in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding next week.
Liberal candidate Peter Njenga defines himself by his charity work. Professionally, he’s an accountant, with a small one-man firm in Surrey.
Politically, he’s faced a bumpy road in his campaign so far. After losing the party’s nomination vote for the riding of South Surrey-White Rock, where he lives and works, he was asked to run in Abbotsford – only to face scrutiny when a series of his recent, unflattering social media posts were unearthed. Since then, he hasn’t spoken to the media or shown up to all-candidates’ meetings.
His party’s communications team says he’s too busy door-knocking to speak to reporters.
But a large collection of online information he’s posted paints a portrait of the man – persistent, ambitious, a proud Canadian by choice, and a philanthropist guided by a faith-based mission.
Born in Kenya, he was one of 20 brothers and sisters, according to a Surrey Leader article from 2014. As he describes in a campaign handout when he ran for the Surrey nomination, his parents were farmers, devout Christians, and very poor. Nonetheless, he excelled in high school and went on to earn a bachelor of commerce from the University of Nairobi in 2001.
He says he spent the next 10 years working as an accountant, starting two side businesses, finishing a part-time executive MBA and using every extra minute to do faith-based charity work. In 2011, he moved to the United States to begin a Ph.D. at Walden University, an online, for-profit school based in Minneapolis. Njenga wrote his thesis on how Kenyan charities can best respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa in the face of uncertain funding.
Next, he came to Canada. “I was always attracted by the good name of Canada,” he wrote in the handout. Njenga took an accounting job, taught finance at Kwantlen and a college in Alberta, and even started a small college himself.
The charity work continued, and he set up the “Dr. Njenga Foundation of Sustainable HIV/AIDS Projects,” which has opened an orphanage in Kenya and regularly donates needed items to homeless people in the Lower Mainland.
He dove into Canadian politics, getting involved with both the BC Liberal Party and the Liberal Party of Canada. Njenga currently serves as a director-at-large for the BC Liberals in the Surrey-Panorama Ridge riding. He ran for the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination this year in his home federal riding, South Surrey-White Rock. He lost to Joy Davies, a former municipal politician. The party then asked him to run in Abbotsford, a Conservative stronghold with little Liberal support. The first days of his campaign were quiet, as his Facebook feed from the period shows. He set up a small office on Ware Road, put up signs, and attended community events like the Sikh Nagar Kirtan parade.
His campaign materials tout of the Liberals’ planks for this election: a $125-billion investment in infrastructure, tax cuts for the middle class, and plans to repeal a bill which allows Canadian citizenship to be revoked.
“[I] have a passionate urge to help the community by changing the direction of our country,” he wrote in one campaign document.
But when a series of posts he’d made on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were unearthed in late September, he joined the long list of candidates shamed by their online comments.
He cited false numbers for refugee aid, speculated whether terrorists were starting forest fires, and compared his height to Hitler’s.
Njenga – known to write long Facebook posts on his faith, charity work, his marriage and his love of Canada – went silent on social media, aside from a two-line apology post.
He attended neither of the riding’s two debates, and party staff told The News he was too busy door-knocking to take media calls.
Unlike Davies, his former South Surrey-White Rock rival who herself resigned over online pro-pot comments, Njenga stayed in the race. The official line, from Liberal spokesperson Oliver Duchesnau, was simply “we accept his apology.”