Indo-Canadians make history as 5 elected MLAs in Alberta

March 7th, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, March 7 (IANS) A record five Indo-Canadians have been elected as lawmakers in the March 3 elections in Canada ’s booming province of Alberta. Now every province in Canada will have at least one turbaned MLA. In the outgoing 83-member Alberta assembly there was only one MLA of Indian origin - Shiraz Sharif, who was born in east Africa.

This time, three were elected from the city of Edmonton and two from Calgary. About 40,000 Indo-Canadians live in Calgary and Edmonton.

Two of the five new MLAs are unshaven Sikhs. The nation’s parliament has already had two turbaned Sikh MPs - Gurbax Malhi and Navdeep Bains.

With these victories, Alberta now boasts more Indo-Canadian MLAs than even Ontario that has four, though it is home to over 60 percent of people of Indian origin in Canada.

Only British Columbia, with seven Indo-Canadians elected to the assembly in 2005, has more than Alberta.

Among those elected in Monday’s elections in Alberta is 27-year-old law student Manjeet Bhullar. Premier Ed Stelmach handpicked him for the Calgary Montrose constituency, which he retained for the ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) Party by garnering 34.5 percent of the vote.

The big upset was the victory of Darshan Kang of the opposition Liberal party who unseated Shiraz Sharif of the ruling PC Party by just 98 votes in the Calgary-McCall constituency.

Kang polled 4,263 votes as against 4,165 for Sharif. In the last election in 2004, Kang had lost by just 300 votes to Sharif who held the seat for four consecutive terms.

McCall is an Indian-dominated area of Calgary. “But a majority of them are not Canadian citizens, otherwise my victory margin would have been bigger,” Kang told IANS.

“I am proud to be a Canadian, and an Indian to represent this riding (constituency). For the first time, there will be turbaned MLAs - myself and Manmeet Bhullar - in all assemblies of Canada’s 10 provinces,” said Kang, who came to Canada from Moga in Punjab in 1970.

In the Edmonton-Ellerslie constituency, Naresh Bharadwaj of the ruling PC Party scored an upset victory over fellow Indo-Canadian Bharat Agnihotri of the Liberal Party. Agnihotri was the sitting MLA.

Peter Sandhu of the ruling party beat fellow Indo-Canadians Rick Murti of the New Democratic Party and Sandeep Dhir of the Liberal party in the Edmonton-Manning constituency.

The fifth Indo-Canadian winner was Raj Sherman, another newcomer who won the Edmonton-Meadowlark seat for the ruling PC party.

It was the eleventh consecutive win for the Progressive Conservative Party that has ruled oil-rich Alberta since 1971.

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