By Ray Hudson
Sukh Dhaliwal served as the MP for Newton North Delta from 2006 until 2011 when the riding went to Jinny Sims of the NDP by a margin of just under a thousand votes. Not content to give up his political dreams, he went to work to be ready when the next election call came, as it did last summer. I asked him about the emotional road when one loses an election and then comes back to win the next time. He spoke with Ray Hudson about the experience of being an MP, losing and election and returning to the House in the Liberal government.
Sukh Dhaliwal: For me this riding was Newton North Delta, in fact in the south Fraser we broke the ice in 2006, electing a Liberal, the first since 1949. We won again in 2008, served until 2011 and lost by a very little margin. So I accepted the verdict of the people and their choice, but at the same time I moved to this community. This is the community that has given everything to me, my family and my business. This is why I stayed very active. Whether or not I was an elected representative, I’ve been in this community permanently. Other candidates come and go. They will go against me for the nomination and go away if they don’t win. I’m the only candidate that was always active in the community whether I was in office or out.
After losing, I had options. I have both, Professional Engineering designation and BC Land Surveyor certification with which I have my small business. The premier is a very close friend of mine, almost from the first time I moved into BC in the 1990s, so I had an option to stay with her provincially but then I saw this election coming on.
Ray Hudson: We’re you thinking that this election loss was just a bump on the road and that you were coming back?
Sukh Dhaliwal: In the beginning I did not think that, but when Justin Trudeau became the leader of the party, I thought someone had to get involved and I thought if it’s not me then who? When I looked at the four years I was out of parliament, I was talking to people on the street, talking with the businesses and talking with the non-profit organizations, and everyone was complaining. Everyone was complaining that they didn’t like the way the government was handling various issues. They approached me, and encouraged me to go back into the race. We went through the open nomination process, and we formed a team. Both Randeep Sarai, who ran against me for the nomination, and myself came together as friends, and then started working together towards this goal. From the election, the people gave me a clear mandate, 57% of the vote, for to me to represent them. I’m very humbled and thankful to the people who have put their trust in me. It was also a win-win for Sarai because he won the riding just north of me in Surrey Centre.
Now we get to the issues, the very first thing that we did was to help the middle class families with their tax cuts, and effective this month it’s in place. Crime is a key issue, you know when we were on the doorsteps everyone business, every person was complaining about the crime situation and the issue of one hundred more officers for Newton. The day I was elected I started a conversation with the Minister of Safety, Ralph Goodale, to make sure that we can deliver on that agreement that the City of Surrey had with the federal government. And although we only had one day in the House I was able to stand and raise that question with the minister. Seventy officers are now on the ground, ten more are on the way and the remaining fifteen will be in place before the deadline.
Then we met with Bill Fordy the Chief Superintendent in Charge of the Surrey Detachment, who arranged a six-hour meeting with him and his support staff so they could give a briefing, that would allow us to identify the tools and resources they need to address the problem and make people feel safe in their community.
We are a service to the community. Like today, the office was closed but when a constituent had a death in the family, the whole staff is here to help. After all, all politics is local. One part is policy and the other is serving the constituents. In fact we have more applications in the files created in the first two months, because we opened a riding office well ahead of others.
In a short time we have been able to achieve many things. The tax cuts for the middle class families, the environment conference which for the first time included the provincial premiers, the return of the long census form, and relief for the scientists who will now be able to speak freely and bring their views forward. We’ve already announced the summer jobs program will offer 35 thousand jobs, doubling the number in the program at present. Next will come the Child Care program we promised, because it has to be part of the new budget. And finally, infrastructure across the country is in need of upgrading. And the Prime Minister has said that the money will be distributed on the recommendation of the premiers and the mayors. One other issue that will get immediate attention is that of the missing and murdered Indigenous women. It has been dragging on for way too long, but it’s important that the people can see that the government is doing something that they had asked for.
Ray Hudson: There has been criticism concerning the numbers and the timelines to bring Syrian refugees to Canada. Did the government promise more than it could deliver in this case?
Sukh Dhaliwal: The Prime Minister and Immigration Minister came forward and said they’d underestimated the scope and would not be able to deliver by the year’s end, and that was the reason why they moved the date for their arrival to the end of February. I was on the doorsteps talking with people in the community and they also had the view that the proper protocols be followed to bring the new refugees over.
Ray Hudson: I would like to know how you felt personally, to sit in the parliament again, this time in government, and how it felt to make that walk to the Senate to listen to the speech from the throne?
Sukh Dhaliwal: To me this is all natural now. I have gone through attending caucus meetings, I have chaired the Northern Investment Caucus before and have served on a number of very high profile committees and I have that experience.
Yet, I have never felt as good as I did when I was walking through the hallway to hear the speech and being in the House the very first day, after being away for that time. That’s a greater feeling. And I have a whole bunch of energy now and I’m moving forward. I am the same person but it gives me a different feeling, a different energy that I want to make a difference. Before this, I was in a minority parliament situation, now it’s a majority government, with a fixed election date, so now we have four years to serve the people and deliver what we promised. Everyday, when I was in the parliament before, the question was always ‘when is the next election?’ As a result, we were more focused on the politics than the policy. That’s not a problem this time. There is still a lot to do with respect to assignments to committees and so on, but my main purpose is always to represent the people and businesses of this riding, to be their voice in Ottawa, and I know how to get that done and I’ll make sure that I deliver on that.