Sukh Dhaliwal is the Liberal Member of Parliament for Surrey-Newton. He has served the Surrey community before when he was MP for Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011. After earning his Bachelor of Science (Surveying Engineering) from the University of Calgary, Sukh started his own business Dhaliwal & Associates Land Surveying Inc. As a former member of the Surrey Board of Trade, he was an active spokesman for small businesses.
Sukh has played a vital role in transforming Surrey into a dynamic community. He participated on the Board of Directors for SEEDS (Self Employment and Entrepreneur Development Society), was a member of the City of Surrey Parks and Community Services committee, and volunteered with Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Emergency Centre Campaign – a fundraising effort to assist in the construction of the hospital’s expanded emergency ward.
It has been one year since the community re-elected Sukh as its representative. In an interview with Desi Today, he talks about his journey and major issues that the Surrey-Newton community is dealing
You are an engineer by profession, when and why did you decide to join politics? What attracted you most towards the Liberal party?
Politics has always been an interest for me, and soon after arriving in Canada, I began to get involved with the Liberal Party because of its ability to balance social policy with effective fiscal management. I startedto help with Paul Martin’s first leadership campaign back in 1990 because I found him to be an inspiring business leader who never lost sight of his compassion and empathy for people. This was an experience that convinced me that I wanted to one day run to become a Member of Parliament.
It has been one year since Liberal party formed the government, how has been the journey for you in this first year?
While this is a return to Ottawa for me, this second time being elected under the leadership of Justin Trudeau has been a very different experience. There is a sense of hope and optimism in the country that I have never seen before because of an approach that is truly listening to the wants and needs of Canadians. As a government, we are showing leadership on issues like climate change, electoral reform and open and accountable government because our platform really looked to positioning Canada strongly for the future. This first year has been a whirlwind of ambitious policies, and I am excited to continue with delivering on the promises we made to Canada’s middle class, and those that aspire to join it.
You have played an important role in pushing for KomagataMaru’s formal apology. Now that task is accomplished, how do you want the community to work beyond this apology?
The KomagataMaru tragedy is a dark point in Canada’s history, and what I want to see is the Punjabi community, and all Canadians, using its memory to continue to break down barriers between people. By sharing the story, and teaching younger generations about how diversity is one of our country’s greatest assets, we only strengthen our place in the world. With so much division between races, religions and backgrounds across the globe, I want those that have been touched by the story of those passengers to view their fellow citizens as equals and friends, regardless of differences.
It is a very basic question, but a lot of people are still unaware what role does an MP play and what issues and problems they can expect you to resolve?
For me, I have always put the task of serving the needs of the local community in Surrey-Newton ahead of everything else. Whether it is helping someone with the immigration application of a family member, or inquiring about those who are waiting to receive their EI benefits, or fighting for program funding for organizations working with at-risk youth, constituency work is so important. My time in Ottawa as an MP and as part of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade is about considering the issues and the day, and working towards crafting policies, programs and legislation that help to address these issues.
What are some of the major problems according to you that Surrey-Newton community has been dealing with and they approach you for help? How do you plan to resolve them?
I am focused on crime and public safety, public transportation, and ensuring that our middle class has the kind of consideration they deserve. I work closely the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale to constantly look at strategies to reduce the flow of illegal guns coming into the country and supporting gang activity. I am also fighting for our government to commit to firm funding for the Surrey LRT line, which I hope can be secured in the coming year. Finally, I am ensuring that local Surrey-Newton families and residents are aware and taking advantage of the new programs we have introduced, from the Universal Child Care Benefit to the new middle class tax cut.
Surrey’s increasing gang violence and South Asian youth’s involvement in drugs related activity is rising so much that it is nothing less than a crisis now. What do you think of the current situation? Don’t you think the problem should be resolved at the central level too?
Gangs are targeting youth from all backgrounds, and I certainly do not think that this is just a South Asian problem. I believe that one of the keys to ensuring youth don’t get into the gang lifestyles is in supporting initiatives and programs that work on prevention and intervention. By having RCMP officers, or organizations like Kid’s Play involved with the lives of youth at an early age, we can set these kids on the right path that will last a lifetime. I am happy to see programs now emerging that are helping young people who are already involved to get out of these gangs, but making sure they never join to begin with is the most effective strategy we can focus on.
How will marijuana legalization curb the alarming gang related activities?
That is one of the main purposes of legalization – to get it out of the hands of criminals who are selling to underage children. Regulation, taxation and investment into everything from health initiatives to youth supports will help to stop criminals from putting our neighbourhoods at risk. The black market, and those who are operating within it, don’t care about anything but filling their wallets. Whether it is innocent residents caught in the crossfire of a gun fight, or young people buying marijuana illegally from individuals they know nothing about, are facing the consequences of a commodity that is making millions of money for criminal gangs. Regulation is one of the keys to getting the criminal elements out of the marijuana trade.
You have recently formed Surrey-Newton youth council and the response has been overwhelming. Has the council started meeting and what are major areas that the council plans to work on in terms of youth issues?
We are still looking at all the applications and hope to get everyone together in the coming months to ensure that all who are interested will have a role to play in building up the local community. The issues will be determined by the young people themselves, which is why I am so excited about this project. We hope to have regular meetings beginning in 2017.
What is your message to the community?
The same one I have delivered since my first election in 2006 – that I am always here for you, and that I am always listening to your problems and concerns so that I can take strong and decisive action. As a representative of the people here in Surrey-Newton, I understand that your priorities must always come ahead of anything else. This is the philosophy which ensure that my office continues to meet the demands of the largest caseload of any Member of Parliament in Western Canada.