Toronto: At least one parliamentary constituency in Canada is fielding all Indian-Canadian candidates as the country goes to vote in the general elections on Monday.
According to Election Canada website, in the Surrey-Newton constituency, all the four candidates are of Indian origin.
Some 40 Indian-origin candidates are in the fray in the elections to Canada’s 338-member parliament being held on Monday.
In many other constituencies too, such as Brampton, Calgary and Edmonton, which have huge Indo-Canadian populations, Indian-origin candidates are contesting.
According to the Elections Canada website, in Surrey-Newton constituency heavyweights like New Democratic Party’s Jinny Sims and Liberal Party of Canada candidate Sukh Dhaliwal will square off against Green Party of Canada candidate Pamela Sangha and Harpreet Singh from the Conservative Party of Canada.
Dhaliwal and Singh immigrated from India in 1984 and 2002 respectively. Sims was born in India, raised in England, and immigrated to Canada in 1975 while Sangha was born and brought up in Surrey.
All the four candidates are pitching against rising incidence of crime in the area and offering various solutions to tackle the problem of high-profile, gang-related shootings that have left the community worrying.
Puncturing holes in the Conservatives’ claim of being “tough on crime”, Sims questioned their commitment to keep Surrey’s streets safe.
Liberal Party’s Dhaliwal also attacked the Conservatives, saying “tougher sentencing may have filled prisons, but has not made Surrey safer”.
“Irrespective of which party we (represent), we have to work together, because when it comes to crime, or youth getting involved in these gangs, it is not about party politics. It is about family,” Dhaliwal said.
Conservative candidate Harpreet Singh, a former journalist, vowed to find solutions to the community’s problems if he gets elected.
According to a report in Toronto Sun, Singh said he would hold town hall meetings every two months, alternating between four quarters of the riding as a constituency is called in Canada.
Apart from crime in the constituency, Green Party candidate Pamela Sangha is pushing clean energy as a tool to garner votes.
“I get that there is a spree of crime and gun violence here and that kids are being shot at. But we are also big in clean-tech energy and… a vibrant, beautiful community,” she said.
Numbering about 1.2 million, Indian-Canadians make up over three percent of Canada’s population of about 35 million and have become a significant political force.
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, of all electoral district in Canada, Surrey-Newton has the highest proportion — 31 percent — residents born in India.
There is a striking similarity between Paris Climate Agreement and India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched recently. The Paris Agreement is an agreement by the countries to map a global action to keep global warming two degrees centigrade below pre-industrial level.
It utterly lacks teeth to deal with issues, among others, non-compliance and the essential need for finance and technology transfer for achieving that target. Volunteerism is the undercurrent on which the shaky edifice of Paris Agreement rests.
India’s NCAP is a similar story. It is a plan to make a plan to keep the air quality that meets the norms of the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) deserves all the appreciation and encouragement to get going on the job, though quite late and definitely five years behind schedule of another polluted country, China. Non-recognition of the nation-wide threat seems to be the undercurrent on which this well-intended and much-needed national programme rests.
To be fair, the anti-pollution measures have already begun in India over the last decade, though in bits and pieces and through knee-jerks, mainly in setting air quality and vehicle emissions standards, national air quality monitoring programme and indices, fuel quality norms etc.
Even after 42 measures issued earlier by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and graded response action plan that addresses the seasonal and level of severity for Delhi and other cities, air pollution remains a national challenge of Himalayan proportions.
The only major action that has been effective in providing the immediate benefits is extraordinary and accelerated level of penetration of LPG-use in the household and in public transport like buses and auto-rickshaws. Energy efficiency measures through use of LED bulbs, efficient fans, refrigerators and air conditioners have helped in reducing the consumption of fossil fuel in generating extra electricity and the air pollution.
Credit certainly goes to the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Sadly, India still remains on top of the list of the countries where a majority of the mega cities have air quality which is a hundred times worse than the WHO norms.
Nearly 50 per cent of the top most polluted 30 cities are in India. Delhi is now more known dubiously as the world” air-pollution capital rather than India’s political capital. Out of the seven million deaths that take place globally, as per WHO, due to outdoor and indoor pollution, nearly 1.25 million deaths ( 2017) take place in India.
About 51 per cent of these deaths were of people younger than 70. More than four decades of the efforts on a ‘smokeless chulha”(domestic cooking stove), first by the government and then by the mushrooming national and international NGOs, the deaths in 2017 due to indoor pollution caused by the burning of the solid fuel in cooking stoves stands at half a million, as per one report. This in a country where clean environment and pollution-free air and water are constitutionally mandated.
India” efforts at the highest level really started more than four decades back when The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution to enhance the well-being of its citizens which is now deep-rooted in India” development philosophy and strategy. The 106 pages of the NCAP with nearly 63 pages of substantive text and rest broad strategies and annexes represent, at best, good intentions and a structured way to move forward. The document, however, grossly overlooks the nation-wide emergency and drastic measures needed to redress the grim, dangerous and fast-deteriorating situation.
In a country where emergency measures are not unfamiliar, one wonders why the NCAP sounds like any other plan that embodies elephantine speed of execution.
The goal of the NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated time-frame. It recognises that internationally, the successful actions had been city-specific rather than country-wide. It also recognises that 35-40 per cent reduction of pollutants in five years for cities, such as Beijing and Seoul, particularly in regard to particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10) concentrations. Hence, the target of 20-30 per cent reduction in such concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP (2017 as base year).
Recognising Modi” proclamation that the 21st century is going to be India” century, it is not clear why the NCAP target is lower than what is achieved in Beijing and Seoul. If India takes the top place in GDP growth globally, why do we have such low targets in meeting air quality over five years, particularly considering the fact that it is the 65 per cent of India” young population would be the main victims of the worsening air quality?
Air pollution in India is now a national security issue. It needs as much attention and budget provision as discussion and sense of urgency in the procurement of defence equipment. (IANS)