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Dosanjh braves blizzard to go all the way to Holland
Former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh fought his way through a whiteout in Parksville to attend a fundraising dinner for the Vancouver Island North federal Liberal Association Wednesday in Courtenay.
Less-than-ideal road conditions may have delayed his schedule, but the Vancouver South MP/Opposition Health Critic was nevertheless smiling as he strolled through the doors at the Golden Carriage restaurant, pausing to sign an autograph before getting down to business.
"He's a remarkable guy," said Mike Holland, federal Liberal candidate for Vancouver Island North. "There was a tendency for a lot of violence in the Indo-Canadian community, and he had the guts to stand up to them."
Dosanjh, formerly an editor of a Punjabi newspaper, was put in hospital after an assailant struck him over the head with a lead pipe in the parking lot of his Vancouver law office in the 1980s. When he was an MLA in 1999, his constituency office was firebombed.
He was still on the receiving end of hateful comments last spring when organizers of an Indo-Canadian parade in Vancouver could not guarantee his safety.
"He's always had the guts to stand up for moderation, and I think when you're a moderate you've got to be twice as tough as the normal person because you've got to stand up to the lunatics on the right and the lunatics on the left," said Holland, a lawyer and former Courtenay councillor. "You get it from both sides."
Before taking on the health portfolio, Dosanjh had been Opposition critic of national defence, public safety and foreign affairs. He has served on numerous committees — national security and foreign affairs among them — and as health minister when the federal Liberals were last in power.
Dosanjh criticized the federal Conservatives for prioritizing spending on fighter jets and jails, and for cutting $6 billion in taxes for the wealthiest corporations in Canada.
"When we voted for them (Tories) in 2007, we were in a surplus," Dosanjh said. "When you are in a surplus, you try and create a more competitive advantage. Our tax rates are competitive as it is, and we don't need to borrow money to give these guys tax cuts."
He feels money is instead needed to provide family care, resources for post-secondary education and pension security.
"Ultimately, those are the priorities that we have, and their priorities are jails, jets and tax cuts," said Dosanjh, noting a Wednesday poll of 2,800 Canadians has the Tories ahead of the Liberals by five points in the popular vote. "An election in my mind always has been 50/50. We're not looking for one. We've basically told them what our view is. Vote based on what's in the budget."
Holland credits Dosanjh for bringing in compensation for hepatitis C, for initiating a violent offenders registry and for introducing protection for same sex couples in terms of custody and access.
"Everywhere down the line he has shown the courage to stand up for moderation," Holland said. "Really, that's what the federal Liberal party has been about. We had the guts to bring in universal health care. It wasn't popular at the time, now it's almost a motherhood issue."
He also credits the party for bringing in CPP and OAP, and for regulating banks.
"In Canada, unlike the U.S. and the Republican Party, we believe there's a role for good government, not for a government that takes over everything," said Holland, who feels there is a harmful school of thought south of the border that sees all government as bad.
A fatigued and frustrated Holland resigned from Courtenay council in 2004. He had claimed then-MLA Stan Hagen reneged on a deal to build a 75-bed expansion to Glacier View Lodge if he sold a quantity of Liberal party memberships, a deal Hagen denied.
Several years ago when the NDP introduced legislation to take over B.C. charities, including Glacier View Lodge, Holland and other volunteers took the party to the Court of Appeal. The legislation was eventually overthrown.
He recalls the next provincial government — the B.C. Liberals — "lied about long-term care beds. I got them to make the promise to put 5,000 long-term care beds throughout B.C."
He supports a suggested judicial review of radiologists' interpretations of medical scans, in the wake of a recent controversy at St. Joseph's General Hospital.
"There's nothing wrong with finding out the answers," Holland said. "It's scary in a way how much faith we do put in professionals."