BRAMPTON: Though Indo-Canadians have made their mark in provincial and federal politics in Canada by becoming MLAs, MPs and ministers, they have failed badly in municipal elections.
Even though all the MPs and MPPs (equivalent to MLAs) from Brampton are Punjabis, the city has just only one Punjabi councillor — Gurpreet Singh Dhillon.
But things could change this time when municipal elections are held in October.
In fact, there is a great possibility that Brampton could have its first Indo-Canadian mayor after the October 22 elections as former federal sports minister Baljit Singh Gosal is one of the main contenders in the four-cornered contest.
“I have lived in this city for almost 35 years and I have a name recognition. People know me and I connect with them very well,’’ says Gosal as he hops from one campaign meeting to another in this city of over 600,000 people.
If he pulls off the victory on Oct 22, Gosal will become the first Sikh mayor of any major Canadian city. Before him, the small city of Mission in British Columbia had a Sikh mayor — Naranjan Singh Grewal — in the early 1950s.
The Indo-Canadian community makes up almost 25 percent of Brampton’s population. If they vote en bloc in favour of Gosal, it will give him a major advantage against the sitting mayor Linda Jeffrey and Patrick Brown.
“Definitely, the momentum is in our favour … I am seeking votes not only from the Indo-Canadian community but I am door-knocking in all the communities. People in Brampton know me for my work as an MP and as a federal minister. They know that I have deep roots in Brampton and I am not an outsider,’’ says Gosal who has served on various city committees over the years.
An insurance broker by profession, Gosal was elected to the Canadian parliament from Bramalea-Gore-Malton in 2011 by beating long-time MP Gurbax Malhi who was Canada’s first turbaned Sikh MP. After his maiden win, Gosal was made the minister of state for sports by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
After losing the 2015 parliamentary elections, Gosal went back to his insurance business till he took the plunge in municipal politics in July by filing nomination papers to contest for Brampton’s mayor.
Gosal says he has a very fair chance of winning the mayoral election. “That’s a real possibility and I want to be people’s mayor. I am talking about issues which are bothering them — crime, traffic problems and high tax rates. My priority will be growth of businesses in our city and we must take advantage of our next-door location to Toronto airport.’’
Hailing from Ratainda village near Phillaur and a graduate of DAV College Jalandhar, Gosal immigrating to Canada in 1981.
“I came to Vancouver on the basis of marriage. In 1983, I moved to Brampton and have stayed here ever since then.’’
Apart from being an insurer, he has also been a amateur soccer coach. “I was also on the Sikh committee which committed to raising $10 million for the newly opened Brampton Civic Hospital and we got its emergency services ward named after Guru Nanak,’’ says Gosal.
Many big names in the local Indo-Canadian community are throwing their weight behind Gosal.
Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce president Kanwar Dhanjal, who also lives in Brampton and knows all mayoral candidates, says, “Gosal has a very good chance to become the mayor as he is a well-known person. He is very soft-spoken and non-controversial and I see a great deal of support for his candidacy among people in the city.’’