Some members of British Columbia’s governing Liberal party are publicly calling for Premier Christy Clark to resign over a scandal involving a leaked plan to attract ethnic voters.
The party members, who describe themselves as “especially with (the) ethnic background” of Indo- and South Asian descent, agreed over a Sunday breakfast meeting in Surrey, B.C., to call for Clark to step down.
Their call comes hours ahead of an emergency government cabinet meeting called to address the scandal.
Vikram Bajwa, who co-ordinated the breakfast discussion, said 89 party members passed a one-line declaration because Clark has made “the ethnic vote a joke” in the province.
“In order for us to gain and come back to the government, she has to resign and somebody new has to come and lead the party into elections,” he said in an interview.
“If she doesn’t resign, the Liberal party will just be nowhere to be seen.”
Clark issued a letter of apology last Thursday after a plan was leaked that urged the Liberals to co-ordinate resources to focus on winning over ethnic voters.
On Friday, Clark accepted the resignation of her deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, who sent out 17-page document to several people working on a Liberal re-election plan.
The co-ordination of resources appeared to condone allowing taxpayer-funded government workers to work with the Liberal party on disseminating the strategy.
The document generated days of Opposition New Democrat criticism over the so-called ethnic wins strategy, which involved capitalizing politically on historic injustice issues that tear at an ethnic community’s fabric.
The strategy described the Liberal government’s 2008 apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver as an ethnic win in the Indo-Canadian community.
Almost 380 people from India were denied entry to Canada and their ship stayed harboured in Vancouver for months before returning to India with most of its passengers. Upon arrival in India, a riot erupted and 22 passengers died.
On Friday, Veteran Liberal MLA Dave Hayer, an Indo-Canadian who has represented a Surrey riding since 2001, said the ethnic vote strategy demeans the work of all MLA’s in B.C. who genuinely work to represent all of their constituents.
Hayer called for punishment of those responsible for the strategy, but stopped shot of criticizing Clark.
Bajwa said his group also voted in favour of calling on Clark to scrap the Times of India awards, a lavish international event that’s set to bring Indian film stars to Vancouver in April.
He said the group fears the $11 million event, coupled with the ethnic vote scandal, will create a backlash for the Indo-Canadian community because it’s a major expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
“We won’t stand for that. There are more important major issues concerning our communities — our children, our education and other discrimination we feel here accordingly that should be addressed,” he said.
Bajwa said the scandal was the major topic of discussion today at the temples in Surrey, and while his fellow party members are not angry they believe the “buck” stops with the premier.
“It is important to all ethnic communities in B.C., not to Indo-Canadians only,” he said. “Because during the elections and after the elections, no matter whatever the results are, this is going to be a discussion topic for everybody.
“We don’t want to be discriminated against and disrespected for this reason.”
Bajwa has been a member of the B.C. Liberals for one year and a member of the federal Liberal Party for a decade. In 2011 he unsuccessfully ran for mayor in Surrey, B.C.
Former Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who is the B.C. Liberal candidate in the riding of Surrey-Fleetwood for this May’s election, questions Bajwa’s motives over the call for Clark’s resignation.
“I’m ... a realist and I know we’re in the lead up to an election, and everyone is looking to anything they can to discredit anybody,” he said in an interview. “It’s unfortunate, but it is the reality of what happens.”
Fassbender said he continues to completely support the premier and believes she has dealt with the issue at hand decisively.
“I think that people are making this and taking this way too far and I think we need to recognize that a mistake was made,” he said.
“I totally agree it was inappropriate, the person that has taken responsibility has resigned.”