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November 18, 1999
More Desi Connections In BC Election
A P Kamath
Ujjal Dosanjh, the man who could be the premier of British Columbia, has yet another challenger -- and this challenger too has a desi connection.
Education Minister Gordon Wilson is married to Judi Tyabji, a former television personality, born in a Muslim immigrant family. But her influence in the 150,000-strong Indian Canadian community in British Columbia is minimal.
Wilson and Tyabji's adultery scandal had hurt his political career in the early part of the decade. He was forced to resign from the Liberal Party when the affair, including revealing love letters, was made public. They divorced their spouses and were later married.
He is the fourth person to declare the run for the top position of the New Democratic Party.
The three other declared candidates are Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, Agriculture Minister Corky Evans and former finance minister Joy MacPhail.
New Democrats will gather in Vancouver from February 18 to 20 to choose a leader to succeed Glen Clark, who resigned last August after it was revealed that the police were probing him in a gambling license scandal.
Liberal lawmaker Christy Clark said the NDP should elect Wilson as its leader.
''If Gordon Wilson becomes NDP leader it will be a gift to Gordon Campbell,'' she said, referring to her leader who is expected to be the winner in the 2001 provincial election.
But Dosanjh is convinced that the NDP, which has faced a number of financial scandals in recent years, could still win if an effective leader emerges and offers people a more open and responsible government.
He says he is not interested in being a premier for just one year.
Unlike Dosanjh, Wilson is relatively new to NDP.
Wilson, 50, one-time British Columbia Liberal leader, made headlines last January when he ditched a party he created, the Progressive Democratic Alliance, to take a seat in the NDP cabinet. His detractors term him as unreliable and demagogic.
Unlike Dosanjh, who is leading in all opinion polls to be the new NDP leader, the mercurial Wilson has little support from the top bosses in NDP. He is also carrying quite a bit of political baggage.
Wilson is under investigation by British Columbia's conflict-of-interest commissioner for failing to declare an unpaid $ 29,000 loan to a Vancouver-area widow, a south Asian known to his wife.
Wilson's personal financial debts have been the subject of much media speculation, and his opponents, particularly those in the Liberal Party, say loudly that a man who cannot manage his own finances should not be the premier.
He was also forced to recant a passage in one of his books that claimed he witnessed Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech in 1963. Wilson was living in Africa that year. His integrity will be a big issue during his bid to gain control of NDP.
"This man ditched the Liberals to start his own party and he was relentless in his criticism of NDP," said a NDP leader. "And then he suddenly gave up his own party and joined the NDP."
Well, Wilson has his work cut out for him...
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