Premier Horgan defends Kahlon in Legislature
BY RATTAN MALL
NORTH Delta’s NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon on Thursday lashed out at Richmond’s BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal for his ‘shameful’ comment concerning his father’s taxi license while demanding that Kahlon resign from an all-party committee that is reviewing ride hailing.
The select standing committee on Crown corporations has been holding meetings and accepting submissions from representatives of the taxi and ride-hailing industries.
Kahlon wrote to the conflict of interest commissioner on Wednesday night about the controversy. He told The VOICE: “I said you let me know if you think this is a conflict of interest because I don’t think so. I am confident he’s going to come back and say ‘there is no conflict of interest.’”
Kahlon explained why he thinks so: “It’s all party committee, so there’s four BC Liberals, one Green member and four NDP [MLAs] and we have no power, no authority to make any decision. This committee can only make a recommendation. I was part of the original committee that actually said that we should bring ride hailing in. We had no problems working together. Everybody thought it was great and now some of the members from BC Liberals find out that my dad is a taxi driver and now they’ve got major concerns.”
He added: “I am, to be honest with you, most kind of ashamed because I’ve never hid the fact that my dad is a taxi driver. I have never hid the fact that my mom [used to wash] dishes at restaurants. I am proud of that record and to see Jas Johal raise this question and in particular because I asked tough questions off the Uber Vice President – and I ask tough questions off everyone. I asked a question ‘would you want your kids to get into a car with somebody who hasn’t had the vehicle inspection [of his car] and hasn’t done a criminal check?’ I think that’s a very legit question. And so that’s offended them and now they plead a conflict of interest which I fundamentally disagree with.”
Kahlon then went on to expose the Opposition’s double standards.
He pointed out: “We have people who own farms – the Delta South MLA owns a farm and he’s on the agriculture committee. We have MLAS who own property who are on committees that are looking at rental rules. And so because those committees do not have the power to make a decision, it’s considered okay. You’ll remember a couple of years ago, Peter Fassbender – the guy who had all the power [as] Minister of Transportation – his daughter was lobbying for Uber and they said there is no conflict of interest.”
Kahlon added: “So now for me, because I asked tough questions, I am considered biased I think [it] is utterly false.”
He went out to point out: “I am a young MLA. Normally people think of their spouse and you have to disclose everything your spouse is doing or any financial interest. We have to disclose [about our] kids. But because I am a young MLA, they are coming after me because [of my] dad who is just retiring [He’s retiring on January 1 next year]. Normally, if you ask any of these MLAs, no one ever asks them ‘what does your dad do?’ ‘what does your grandfather do?’”
Kahlon then lashed out at Johal, saying: “I think it’s a shame and again I am most ashamed of Jas Johal because he should know … this is the South Asian community – we are all connected with people of forestry and trucking and taxi. And for him to stand up in front of everybody and go on the record to attack my dad in the Legislature for being a legit business person who’s been driving taxis for 30 years, I think it’s quite shameful. I would have expected it from the other BC Liberals, but I find it quite shameful that it had to be him.”
ON Thursday Premier John Horgan in Question Period in the B.C Legislature defended Kahlon and his role in the ride sharing committee.
“If the official opposition wants to demonize small business people, if the members of the opposition want to be judge, jury and executioner…. It’s a bit ironic, because not a week and a half ago, we had overtures from the opposition: “Why can’t we all work together?” If we all want ride-sharing, which we do — we passed legislation to that effect — why demonize the son of a hard-working business person because he happens to drive a taxi for a living? Why demonize people who work 12 to 14 hours a day just because it’s politically expedient?
“The committee members have no decision-making authority. The committee members are seeking input from the public. It would strike me, and I think it would strike most normal-thinking people, that if you have an individual that has some experience in an area that you’re investigating, that would be a positive thing.
“I don’t know what the member’s father did for a living. Quite frankly, I don’t care. But I do believe that he has every right to stand in this place and ask inane questions. Keep going, my friend. I’m going to defend the member for Delta North because his father is a small business person that I thought you people supported.
“I assume that all members of this place are acting with the utmost of integrity. I will take direction from the conflict commissioner when it comes to conflict of interest, not members of the B.C. Liberal Party, thank you very much.
“So when the member for Delta North participates with other members of the Legislature in a collegial committee process and he brings expertise that they know not about, I would see that as an asset, not a conflict.
“The member is in this place because he got an education and he was raised by a man who worked day after day after day to make a better life for his family. That’s what the taxi industry is. They’re not enemies of British Columbia. They’re good, hard-working people. That they produced a fine young man like the member for Delta North is a good thing, not a crime.
“With respect to the member for Delta North’s father and his vocation, he has, at his initiative, asked the conflict commissioner for a ruling on this.
“I’m proud of the member. I’m proud of his father. I’m proud of all hard-working British Columbians that are very proud of their children coming here, particularly the mother and father of the member for Nanaimo who are here seeing this integrity in action.
“The member for Delta North has written to the conflict commissioner. He’s following up today. I expect that the conflict commissioner, who we charge, all of us in this place, to ensure that the lines that the members are talking about are not crossed…. I will await the decision from that office”