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5 Indo-Canadians elected to Alberta assembly

March 12, 2008 09:06 IST

Five Indo-Canadians have been elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly, elections for which were held on March 3.

There are four lesgislators elected on the Progressive Conservative label and one as Liberal.

They include Manmeet Bhullar, who has just turned 28, still studying law at Windsor University.

"We are delighted in the government that Manmeet has been elected," said David Heyman from Alberta Premier's office.

"I have known him for many, many years. He has been a community leader for many, many years. He has a large network of friends and he will do very well as MLA in his area," he said.

"I am humbled," Bhullar said about his becoming the MLA at such a young age.

He was personally nominated by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach to be their candidate from Calgary Montrose riding.

So, Bhullar didn't have to go through the nomination process by the riding association.

Others elected to the Legislature are: Peter Sandhu (Edmonton-Manning); Raj Sherman (Edmonton-Meadowlark) and Naresh Bhardwaj (Edmonton Ellerslie).

Darshan Kang was elected as Liberal from Calgary McCall defeating 3-term sitting South Asian Conservative MLA Shiraz Shariff.

There are a total of 83 MLAs, of which PCs got 74, 9 Liberals and 2 are NDP.

"On March 3, the people of Alberta exercised their democratic right and re-elected the Progressive Conservative Party to be their government," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

He congratulated the Alberta premier on behalf of the Canadian government and said Ottawa "has been pursuing a more open federalism that recognises the strength and contribution of each region of this country. I look forward to continuing to work with Premier Stelmach and the other first ministers to build a stronger and better Canada."

There were only two Indo-Canadians MLAs in the outgoing Legislature.

Now they are 5 and that should speak volumes about the increasing strength of the Indo-Canadian/South Asian community, said Conservative MP Deepak Obhroi.

"I am so happy and delighted over this number. It shows the strength of the Indo-Canadian/South Asian population," Obhroi added.

Bhullar told this reporter that he has been in politics for several years working very closely with Jim Prentice, Federal Ministry of Industry.

His Calgary Montrose riding has about 30,000 voters, but only 33 per cent voted in the election.

Bhullar secured 2,600 votes and got elected. His nearest rival secured 2,000 votes

He has an under-graduate degree in Sociology, which he did through correspondence course.

So, he said he understands such issues as for people to connect with the political system in the country.

It is their disconnect that could be deemed as largely instrumental  in such poor showing in the election.

"There's such a diverse population in this riding -- South Asians,. Lebanese, Fijian, people from Middle Eastern countries, etc." Bhullar said.

"I want to engage people in my riding, people who have not been engaged in the system before. So, my campaign was not just to talk but get people to get engaged, get people to vote in much larger number, get people to be part of our system," Bhullar added.

He said he takes these things very seriously. "During the campaign I was pushing that people should know about our system," he said.

Bhullar said his interest is also in education and health care. He wants kids to go to schools and he would like to ensure that there are no drop-outs from high school.

Image: Manmeet Bhullar

Ajit Jain in Toronto