RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Justin Trudeau’s South Asian dilemma in B.C.

Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan

Sukh Dhaliwal LIBERAL Leader Justin Trudeau has let it be known that all ridings will have open nomination races in all ridings and Liberals tell me that he has also told party members that he would like to see some new, young faces and is discouraging older members who either lost in the last election or didn’t run for whatever reason to seek nominations.

Because Liberals are hoping that Trudeau’s steady popularity – in spite of all the mean-spirited and shamelessly distorted attacks on him by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his fellow Conservatives – will become a tsunami that will ensure a victory for them, they are all terribly excited to jump on the bandwagon.

Last week I wrote about the infighting in Liberal ranks in Surrey’s Fleetwood-Port Kells riding.

This week in the Surrey-Newton riding there was a new development as former Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal and his wife Roni pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the Income Tax Act by not filing tax returns for their company Genco Consultants Inc. Dhaliwal was president and director, while his wife was secretary.

Many potential contenders for the Liberal nomination had been waiting for the judgment in this case, because the maximum penalty for this offence is $25,000 and a year in jail.

But Sukh Dhaliwal, who was facing six charges, on Tuesday pleaded guilty in the B.C. Provincial Court in Surrey to three charges and paid a total fine of $3,000. His wife, who was facing 14 charges, on Monday pleaded guilty to five charges and paid a total fine of $5,000. Both received the minimum fine of $1,000 for each charge.

It was alleged that Dhaliwal failed to file a completed corporate income tax return on Form T2 for 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Dhaliwal failed to file tax returns within the required 120 days after being served a notice of requirement in August 2011. Charges were sworn in October 2012.

Dhaliwal’s lawyer said that the returns were not filed because of a number of circumstances and that it was a complicated and regretful situation.

Since there are no criminal charges, Dhaliwal can most probably rest easy.

Dhaliwal, as I noted in my column last week, was a popular MP who went out of the way to help his constituents but got knocked out by Jinny Sims thanks to the NDP wave in 2011.

The bitterness between Dhaliwal and Sims will now be reignited and you can expect a fierce battle in this riding.

On the other hand, if Dhaliwal is not allowed to run for some reason or the other, at least two of the names of contenders that crop up are those of guys who are not really hot candidates and may lose to Sims. Negative aspects of their past will surely be brought up by the media.

So we’ll just have to wait and see if the Liberal bosses give Dhaliwal the green light or prefer someone fresh who’s prominent enough but who also has nothing embarrassing in their past.

Barj DhahanHOWEVER, Trudeau faces a veritable South Asian dilemma in another riding: Vancouver South.

That’s the controversial riding where then-Liberal federal minister Herb Dhaliwal was forced to quit by that petty-minded then-Liberal leader Paul Martin who encouraged his poodles led by Shinder Purewal to take over the riding executive because Dhaliwal had been a loyal Jean Chretien supporter. Martin, after having used Purewal to do his dirty work, dumped him and parachuted NDP-turned-Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh into the riding.

Dosanjh narrowly lost to Conservative Wai Young in the last election and with Trudeau’s popularity, the Liberals hope to win back the riding.

The Liberals have two fresh faces: well-known Vancouver entrepreneur Barj S. Dhahan and Lt.Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan, the first Sikh in Canada to take command of a British Columbia regiment.

According to my sources, Trudeau actually favours Sajjan who received a prominent role at the Liberal convention in Montreal two weeks ago when he introduced the star speaker Lt. General (retired) Andrew Leslie.
But as Trudeau has declared that there will be open nominations, all he can do is give hints or put pressure on Dhahan through others.

But I am told Dhahan is not one to back down and enjoys the support of the Khalsa Diwan Society’s Ross Street Gurdwara executive.

Since both of them are prominent personalities, their nomination battle will be watched keenly.

Sajjan joined the British Columbia Regiment as a trooper in 1989 and was commissioned in the regiment in 1991. He was promoted to captain in 1995 and to major in 2005. Established in 1883, the regiment is said to be the oldest military unit in Vancouver, and has received 40 battle honours in its history, according to information on his Facebook.

Sajjan will have to quit the military soon to kick off his political campaign.

Lt. Col. Harjit Singh SajjanDhahan has managed to get himself a great deal of publicity recently in both the ethnic and mainstream media by doing stuff like starting the Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize with an endowment fund of $2.5 million. The Vancouver Sun has featured articles titled “Vancouver entrepreneur Barj Dhahan has found success in business; satisfaction in spirituality” and “Alumni come to the rescue at John Oliver Secondary – Donations to help feed special-needs students and fund literacy program.”

Dhahan is the founder and chief executive officer of Sandhurst Group of companies, specializing in commercial real estate development. The group is also largest Esso dealer and one of the largest Tim Hortons franchisees in B.C., according to a Canada India Foundation profile.

Dhahan is also the co-founder and director of Canada-India Education Society (CIES), a registered Canadian charity focusing on health promotion and education in Punjab, India, in partnership with Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust (GN Trust), established by his father Budh Singh Dhahan.

Incumbent MP Wai Young and the Conservative Party will have to come with some kind of a strategy to attract as many South Asians as they can. I am sure this will include South Asian MPs Tim Uppal, Bal Gosal and Parm Gill visiting the riding and attacking Trudeau’s liberal stand on marijuana, especially with the community having such a huge problem with gangs and drugs in South Slope!

Maybe posters in Punjabi showing the drugs and gangs problems with graphic images and Trudeau smoking a joint could prove terribly effective – with both South Asians and Chinese voters in the riding, eh!