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Montreal: Indo-Canadian Liberal speaks out during convention

December 02, 2006 00:09 IST

Just as the Liberal Convention is in full swing in Montreal to elect a new leader, an Indo-Canadian Liberal has muddied the water by suggesting that the community, instead of mobilising support for one candidate or another in exchange for patronage appointments or other benefits, should use their clout to have a greater influence on party's policies.

In an open letter circulated to party members, Sudkhi Sandhu from British Columbia, who's active in federal, provincial and municipal politics, reportedly says there's 'unprecedented' Indo-Canadian involvement in the eight-person Liberal leadership race that concludes in Montreal on Saturday.

'I have heard many horror stories of the promises/wish list of many prominent members in our community as rewards for their contribution in electing the next liberal leader', Sabndhu wrote. 'Some (of our people) want a (Senate) appointment; some want patronage appointments, some want staffing positions for their sons/daughters; some want to still be the next consul-general in Chandigarh'.

Meanwhile, members of the Indo-Canadian community haven't advanced a single policy resolution in Montreal that specifically addresses matters important to the Sikh community.

It's widely known that the Indo-Canadian Liberal MPs are themselves widely divided in the leadership race, with some supporting frontrunner Michael Ignatieff and others supporting former Ontario premier Bob Rae, Gerrard Kennedy and others. 

Four of the eight candidates in the fray are trailing far behind and can easily be discounted as of any consequence. 

Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla is National Chair of Ignatieff's campaign and she believes under Ignatieff's leadership, Liberals would soon be back in power.  

On the basis of delegates counts for each candidate, it is likely that Ignatieff may receive most votes in the first ballot, but in the second and third ballots, it is anybody's guess where this frontrunner would stand.

Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal first came out in support of former minister and leadership candidate Joe Volpe. He's now supporting Ignatieff.

"Joe Volpe continues to be my friend but on a second thought I believe Ignatieff will make a better leader," he told

Former premier of British Columbia, now Liberal MP, Ujjal Dosanjh, and former federal minister Herb Dhaliwal are supporting Rae.  

Some say Dosanjh is supporting Rae because both have their roots in the NDP and both are now with the Liberals. 

"I am supporting Bob Rae not because of either my roots in the NDP or his roots in the New Democratic Party," he told this reporter in a telephone interview.  "I am supporting him because he can provide the progressive alternative to the right wing policies of  Prime Minister Stephen Harper."

He said he has looked at some other leadership candidates - "All are good candidates but I believe, if we are needed to go into election tomorrow, he's (Rae) the best experienced and he has the right vision and right policies for the country."

Dhaliwal said, "I know Bob Rae. I have worked with him (as federal minister). I have a tremendous respect for him. I really know first hand the capability of this gentleman."

Dhaliwal referred to the report titled Lessons to be Learned that Rae wrote last year on the Air India tragedy and which was commissioned by the Federal government. 

"He did a tremendous amount of excellent work on the Air India tragedy," he said.  "Rae held a strong view that there should be an inquiry and that public inquiry, under chairmanship of former Supreme Court Judge John  Major is now in progress in Ottawa.

"I believe Rae would do a tremendous job as leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister of Canada," he said.

Liberal MP Navdeep Bains is supporting Gerrard Kennedy, former education minister of Ontario.

Liberal MP Wajid Khan is supporting Joe Volpe who is trailing far behind amongst eight leadership hopefuls. Rae is running second in the support of Liberal delegates.

When asked why South Asian Liberal members should support him, Rae told this reporter, "They should vote for me because I am the most experienced and the most qualified candidate with the deepest understanding of the country."

He claimed, "I think we are doing very well in the South Asian community. We have an active campaign underway with the help of a number of people.  I have got a long history of involvement with the South Asian community."

Rae said he has taken an active interest in mediating between India and Pakistan. "My work on Air India bombing brought me in very close contact with leaders of the Indian community," he explained.

The Liberal delegates, now in Montreal, will elect their new leader late Saturday or later, depending on the number of ballots.

Sukhi Sandhu and others like him want to be sure that the Indo-Canadian delegates vote from the larger perspective that would help the community bring forward policy changes in the Liberal Party, helpful to the community and to new immigrants.

Ajit Jain in Toronto