Daya Varma


The parliamentary elections in Canada were held on May 2, 2011. The incumbent conservative Prime Minister who had been leading a minority government for seven years finally won a majority. More South Asian candidates contested this election than ever before. In general candidates of the New Democratic Party (NDP) have left orientation; candidates of the other two parties, Conservatives and Liberal, have no defined politics.


Many Indo-Canadian MPs, including former Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, Canada’s first Sikh woman MP Ruby Dhalla, longest-serving Indo-Canadian MP Gurbax Malhi, Navdeep Bains and Sukh Dhaliwal lost their seats. They all represented the opposition Liberal Party that was reduced to just 35 seats. Liberal Party was in power before the present Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is both politically and socially extremely conservative. His party won because the Canadian economy has performed better than in most countries of the West. 


Dosanjh, who was once the premier of British Columbia as a leader of the social democratic party “New Democratic Party (NDP) and had switched to the mainstream Liberal Party had won in the 2008 elections by a narrow margin of about  20 votes; this time he lost to conservative candidate  Wai Young.


Dosanjh had consistently opposed Khalistani movement and had faced many physical attacks by Sikh extremists.


Another Indo-Canadian MP described as a ‘divisive force’, Sukh Dhaliwal was defeated by Jinny Sims (Joginder Kaur) of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in a Vancouver suburb. Sims, the former president of the BC Teachers Federation becomes the first Indo-Canadian MP for the NDP after her tussle in a three-way Indo-Canadian fight in the riding.


In other major defeats during this election, which also saw party leaders like Liberal boss, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe from Quebec’s separatist Bloc Quebecois lose their seats,


Ruby Dhalla, who in 2004 became the first Sikh woman MP in Canada, lost to fellow Indo-Canadian Parm Gill of the Conservatives in Brampton-Springdale on the outskirts of Toronto. Because Ruby Dhalla was a dynamic leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had made it their mission to wrest this seat from Dhalla. The prime minister had visited the constituency four times and even roped in Bollywood star Akshay Kumar for campaigning.


Three-time MP Navdeep Bains, who had held the Mississauga-Brampton South seat since 2004, was also routed this time. Six-time MP Gurbax Malhi, who created history by becoming the first MP of Indian origin in Canada in 1993, was also unseated by fellow Indo-Canadian Bal Gosal of the ruling party.


Former Canada-India Business Council (CIBC) president Sarkar Rana also lost in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough Rouge.  The NDP got another Indo-Canadian MP when its candidate Jasbir Sandhu beat Shinder Purewal of the Liberal Party in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey North.


From the ruling Conservative Party, all it’s sitting Indo-Canadian MPs – Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East), MP Devinder Shory (Calgary Northeast), Tim Uppal (Edmonton-Sherwood) and Nina Grewal (Fleetwood-Port Kells) – retained their seats.


The Indo–Canadian community constitutes almost one million of the 31.5 million population of Canada.

Twenty-three Indo-Canadian candidates were in the fray this time. But the 41st parliament will have eight Indo-Canadian MPs against nine in the outgoing House.


Canada made history in this election when NDP emerged as the official opposition party for the first time by winning 102 seats, replacing the Liberal Party.


More importantly, Canada’s French-speaking Quebec province rejected separatist Bloc Quebecois party and instead voted in the nationalist NDP for the first time.


In fact, Bloc Quebecois was reduced to just four seats from 48 last time, with its leader Gilles Duceppe losing his own seat.


The Green Party also made its entry into parliament with its leader Elizabeth May winning her seat.


(Based on an article in South Asian Post May 6, 2011)

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