The politics of the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade: B.C. Liberals need to get into the game

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      I spent the morning at today's Vaisakhi parade in South Vancouver.

      And for the second consecutive year, I was struck by the underwhelming presence of the B.C. Liberals on Ross Street at the Vancouver's Sikh community's largest community event.

      This year, it was B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson's turn to wander around outside the temple with a tiny entourage.

      I didn't spot any members of his caucus with him, not even his only MLA of Indian ancestry, Jas Johal, as Wilkinson walked down Ross Street south of the temple. (After writing this, I was informed that Johal and five other B.C. Liberal MLAs joined the leader at the main stage at 49th Avenue and Main Street, where the media hang out, and four had their photo with him opposite the temple).

      MLAs Jas Johal, Sam Sullivan, Ralph Sultan, and Michael Lee appeared in a B.C. Liberal snapshot with Wilkinson across the street from the temple on the edge of a parking lot along Ross Street.

      Meanwhile, there was a fleet of New Democrats walking from the temple down Ross Street to Southeast Marine Drive.

      They included Attorney General David Eby, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman, Labour Minister Harry Bains, Citizens' Services Minister Jinny Sims, Burnaby-Lougheed NDP MLA Katrina Chen, Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Jagrup Brar, Surrey–Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh, Burnaby North NDP MLA Janet Routledge, Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA Raj Chouhan, and North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma.

      Former NDP candidate Amrik Mahil, NDP supporter and Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, and former NDP president and Burnaby councillor Sav Dhaliwal were present as well.

      The takeaway for the large crowd south of the gurdwara was that the NDP cared about the community whereas the Liberals, well, perhaps not so much.

      Before last year's provincial election, the local MLA and attorney general at the time was Suzanne Anton. On the day of the Vaisakhi parade, I saw her strolling down Ross Street with one constituency assistant.

      Labour Minister Harry Bains, NDP MLA Rachna Singh (second from left), and Citizens' Services Minister Jinny Sims (second from right) all came in from Surrey to enjoy the parade.
      Charlie Smith

      At the time, I stopped to chat with Anton for a few minutes. And I didn't spot any other Liberal politicians at her side on the street even as she was facing a tough reelection fight. (The then premier, Christy Clark, and the Surrey-Newton B.C. Liberal candidate, Gurminder Parihar, were with Anton inside the temple that day.)

      At the same Vaisakhi parade last year, there were hordes of NDP politicians on-scene to help their candidate, George Chow, who went on to defeat Anton in Vancouver-Fraserview. The man who later became premier, John Horgan, was surrounded by NDP candidates as he walked down Ross Street last year.

      The NDP's two Georges: Minister of State and Vancouver-Fraserview MLA George Chow is happy that Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman took time out of his busy schedule to visit his constituency for Vaisakhi.
      Charlie Smith

      The B.C. Liberals lost the last provincial election in part because they aliented too many people who trace their roots back to India.

      The NDP captured six of the nine Surrey ridings, plus Delta North and nearly won the supposedly safe B.C. Liberal seat of Richmond-Queensborough. Part of the reason was former transportation minister Todd Stone's eagerness to bring ride-hailing to B.C., which was going to clobber the South Asian–dominated taxi industry.

      But the B.C. Liberals also missed the mood in the community, especially its support for a higher minimum wage and desire for better South Asian candidates in winnable constituencies. And the B.C. Liberals put in a tepid showing at the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade less than a month before the election.

      Burnaby councillor and former NDP president Sav Dhaliwal has served on the board of Metro Vancouver with its vice chair, Vancouver councillor and NDP supporter Raymond Louie.
      Charlie Smith

      Today, I didn't see much evidence outside the Ross Street temple that Wilkinson's party has learned from that experience.

      From my observational standpoint, the lack of B.C. Liberals around their leader south of the city's oldest Sikh shrine seemed like a misstep by a politician not known for rousing minority communities in the way that Christy Clark was able to do in 2013.

      NDP MLA Jagrup Brar (centre) and Attorney General David Eby stand alongside Major Sidhu, a former member of the Ross Street temple executive and a member of the NDP constituency executive in Vancouver-Langara.
      Charlie Smith

      As Woody Allen once said, "90 percent of life is just showing up."

      On that score, the NDP certainly trounced the B.C. Liberals today along Ross Street.

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