ME THINKS: Brown guys continue to be Number 2 in B.C. politics – and senior ranks of the bureaucracy  


MY friend Charlie Smith, famous Editor of Georgia Straight (, wrote a very perceptive piece titled “B.C. NDP cabinet includes bright minds, but there are still political potholes to avoid” in which he made some very interesting points.

But what I found really interesting was his take on including – or excluding – South Asians by both the Liberals and the NDP.

To begin with, he noted: “When the NDP governed in the late 1990s, the party made a big deal of having three ministers of South Asian ancestry: Ujjal Dosanjh, Moe Sihota, and Harry Lali. This was taken as a sign that it embraced diversity.

“But when it came to the senior ranks of the bureaucracy, it was pretty monochromatic. One senior civil servant in that era, Suresh Kurl, even documented how few people of colour were working for the government.”


Charlie went on to point out: “The B.C. Liberals didn’t seriously change that dynamic at the deputy minister level. And former premier Gordon Campbell had a habit of keeping his MLAs of colour in junior positions.”

He listed some other anti-minorities steps taken by Campbell including the abolition of the B.C. Human Rights Commission and then noted: “But hey, Campbell appointed Wally Oppal as the attorney general, so that made everything A-okay in his mind.”
Charlie also pointed out: “Under Christy Clark, the B.C. Liberals demonstrated a disturbing tendency to run candidates of colour in unwinnable ridings while reserving nominations for white politicians in battleground multicultural constituencies in Surrey-Fleetwood, Burnaby-Lougheed, and Vancouver-Fraserview. Is it any wonder they were slaughtered in the Lower Mainland this time around?”
But then he also bluntly noted: “Naming two MLAs of South Asian ancestry to a mid-range and low-grade cabinet post also isn’t a very good start, given how this community made the difference for the NDP.

“There will no doubt be grand publicity if a third MLA of South Asian descent, Raj Chouhan, is named speaker. But the reality is that the speaker’s position is largely symbolic and doesn’t carry real power to effect major changes in society.

“If being speaker was the best job in government, MLAs like Dix or Carole James or Shane Simpson would be clamouring for the position. They didn’t do that.

“Chouhan wasn’t included in the cabinet despite being a caucus member representing Burnaby-Edmonds since 2005. Full stop.”

Hmm, something for Horgan to chew on – and for the Liberals to mock the NDP about when it comes to the next election?!


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