WesternGrit introduces a new "special feature" on this blog: "The West's Most Useless MPs". On these pages, over the next few weeks, we will look at the most inept, opportunistic, and generally useless MPs in Western Canada. Having resided in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and now BC, I have an interest in politics and politicians across the fabled "West". While many people like to lump all of this part of Canada into one bunch, the "West" is very diverse - culturally, geographically, socially, and economically. You have strong cores of NDP and Liberal support (mostly Northern and urban areas), and the bastions of conservatism - in rural and mostly suburban areas (with the exception of AB and Sask, where the cities have weaker Liberal and NDP numbers.
Today, we will discuss my own riding: Fleetwood-Port Kells, in suburban Surrey BC, and our MP - Ms. Nina Grewal.
Surrey is a fast-growing city (growing much faster than Vancouver) which is projected to be larger than Vancouver within the next 10 years. Fleetwood-Port Kells - along with the Morgan-Creek/White Rock area (in South Surrey) - is one of the most affluent suburbs of the City of Surrey. Dotted with urban farms (yes, we have beautiful farms and market gardens throughout the city) , wineries, rivers, urban forests, and rolling hillsides, Fleetwood, Surrey is very much like it's United Kingdom namesake. Green, sunny (sunnier than Vancouver, believe it or not), and wedged between the Fraser River and the US border, Surrey is one of the largest, most spread out urban areas in Canada.
Surrey has a very large ethnic population. The largest cultural group in Surrey is South Asian. There are also large pockets of East Asian, Middle Eastern, and African immigrants (and their descendants), as well as many newly arrived Eastern Europeans. The visible minority population of Surrey goes back to Chinese and Indian laborors, railway workers, and lumberjacks from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The riding of Fleetwood is located to the East of Surrey - directly North of Cloverdale (also part of "metro" Surrey), running South of the Fraser River, and East to Langley. Fleetwood is not quite as "diverse" as the rest of Surrey, but still has ethnic populations rivaling some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the rest of Canada. It is also home to some of Surrey's largest groupings of East Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese, Phillipino), Greek, and Italian settlements. More recently affluent South Asians have settled throughout Fleetwood, building some of the most exclusive neighborhoods (for example in the Tynehead area, and further East). The rural/farm population is also very diverse - with many South Asian owned farms in the area.
Fleetwood-Port Kells' MP is Nina Grewal. Who? Yeah, many people do say that. Nina is not exactly a "hyper-active MP" in Parliament. She rarely speaks, and very rarely brings forth new ideas (outside of what might be scripted for her by her party). Within the East Indian community credit for her election goes to a solid core of conservative support in the riding, and her "opportunistic" grab at the riding nomination - angering more than a few life-long Conservative members in the area. Getting help from the Newton-North-Delta supporters of her (since defeated) husband didn't hurt either.
Look up Nina Grewal on the web, and you get some mentions on sites aligned AGAINST a woman's right to choose. There are VERY FEW Hansard entries. As a matter of fact MY last name may have been mentioned more in the House. It's not funny. Seriously... not funny. The other commonly noted mention is stuff like this gem I found:
"Grewal SpeaksOh my gawd she actually said something. Nina Grewal, the silent partner in the Conservative husband and wife duo of Grewal and Grewal, actually spoke up in the house today and asked a question. For the record this is not thefirst time since she was elected she actually spoke in the house. But she usually was overshadowed by her flamboynt and goofy husband Gurmant.
Nina Grewal was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004 for the new riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells. She and her husband, Gurmant, became the first spouses to simultaneously hold elected seats in Parliament
Yep folks an election is on the way. Cause Nina said something in order to get her name written into Hansard. Just to show here constituents she is still in the house."
You see, she isn't exactly a "star" performer of the calibre that is required to represent the people of a riding as large and diverse as Fleetwood-Port Kells. I'm South Asian, so take the next statement with that in mind... She has done a lot of work getting "help" in immigration cases of people who have been otherwise cast aside or rejected via the "normal" immigration process. The thing is, she hasn't actually done any more (I can argue that she's done FAR less) than someone like Penny Priddy, or Sukh Dhaliwal has. Even with her "inroad" in the government vis-a-vis "ministerial immigration permits" (basically by-passing the system), she still hasn't been able to do much more than any other MP - of any party.
So, the extent of Nina Grewal's usefullness as an MP lies in her "ability" to be a visible minority person of the female gender (and we know how badly the Conservatives need both these demographics), who graciously votes anti-choice, and grants immigration permits (via the ministerial backdoor) to her former countrymen/women. Meanwhile all other matters in Fleetwood-Port Kells get conveniently swept aside. How good is that for my riding? Not very. Further to this, she doesn't live in the riding, AND she doesn't seem to have a map of it either - seeing as her 4x6 signs are showing up curbside (on public property) in the ridings of Newton-North Delta, and South Surrey- White Rock.
To add further to Ms. Grewal's horrible record, her handling of the Komagata Maru affair is reprehensible. The Komagata Maru incident occurred in the early 1900s, when a shipful of South Asians (mostly Punjabis from India) were legally sailing to immigrate to Canada. During their sail - and hearing of it - more conservative voices in Canada raised a storm of fury forcing the government of the day to re-enact exclusion laws. The provincial government of BC was also very much involved in this - and was the driving force with some very vocal local conservatives. The shipful of Indians was sent back to India where many were killed or arrested. For years a South Asian Group has been asking for an apology - IN Parliament. Just an apology, placed in Hansard - the Canadian record of law-making. There is an annual fair in Surrey called the Baba Mela (literally "old guys' fair") where the Komagata Maru incident is remembered. For years all governments were slow in acting. When Mr. Harper thought he could get an "in" into the South Asian votes he needs for a Majority he came up with the most ridiculous fake apology ever. The PMO actually TOLD Sahib Thind and other organizers of the group that they absolutely will not offer an apology in Parliament. The group told Harper that without a formal apology in Hansard (like those offered to other groups), there really is no need to show up. There is documented email evidence of the discussions. Harper used his link to Nina Grewal to show up at the fair anyway. He gave his bogus apology and when the crowd of several thousand looked visibly agitated, he fled the stage... tailed by Ms. Grewal. Mr. Thind implored Ms. Grewal to tell the crowd if she felt an apology in Parliament was in order... She refused to retake the stage. Several South Asian community organizers were visibly very upset, and indicated even though some had supported Nina - just because she was South Asian - they would not do so the next time.
There may be some serious changes in the direction of South Asian votes in this upcoming campaign...
A good option to vote for is Brenda Locke - former Provincial Cabinet Minister, and someone who is very involved in the community at large.
Nina Grewal. Congratulations on being named WesternGrit's first ever "Most Useless Canadian MP". Many more to come... Tomorrow: Rob Anders (Calgary West).
Oh... and Nina... try to get your signs on voter's property (to this day I have yet to see a sign on an actual lawn), and IN your own riding. Geography may not be your strong suit, but there has to be someone on your team who knows North from South. If you want, I can post pictures of the offending signs...