Former Brampton Election Rivals Spar Over University
Brampton Ward 9 and 10 City Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon, who represents the northeast corner of the city, managed to accomplish a rare feat in municipal politics when he unseated a sitting councillor in the last municipal election. Gurpreet defeated then incumbent Vicky Dhillon (no relation) by a margin of around 7 points (41 per cent to 32 per cent).
Councillor Vicky Dhillon (left) and Gurpreet Dhillon (right) celebrating Sikh Heritage Month, 2014 (Photo from Gurpreet Dhillon's Twitter account)
Since his time in office, Gurpreet Dhillon has been one of the more outspoken councillors, providing regular updates via Facebook on what he is doing in Brampton city council. Councillor Dhillon has brought a much more open and transparent way of doing politics differently. That doesn't mean he hasn't had his share of misteps, such as recently getting reprimanded by the city's Integrity Commissioner for disclosing confidential information.
That being said, some would say the election results in Wards 9 and 10 reflected a sort of changing of the guard in the Indo-Canadian political leadership in Canada's ninth largest city. Aside from current Councillor Dhillon, there is also Peel school board trustee Harkirat Singh, Ontario NDP deputy leader and MPP Jagmeet Singh, and the current federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains. Let's not forget that all of Brampton's current Members of Parliament are Indo-Canadian, the majority of whom are women.
Who is Vicky Dhillon you may ask? He was first elected in 2006 to represent Wards 9/10, and served for eight years before Gurpreet Dhillon dethroned him in 2014. While most former municipal politicians upon voluntarily choosing retirement tend to keep a low profile, those that get defeated before they decide to leave may not be as quiet. As Vicky Dhillon’s career was cut short in the latter fashion, next year he might be looking to try a comeback. Vicky Dhillon's campaign website from 2014 is still active, and the former councillor has not been shy recently speaking up on recent Brampton issues.
On a recent episode of a local Brampton radio show called South Asian PULSE Prime Time, Vicky Dhillon expressed numerous opinions on a variety of topics, ranging from the incoming university to his opinion of Mayor Linda Jeffrey. He said the university would take up to 10-12 years to finish and higher educational institute in the city will remain a dream. That dream would be exacerbated by a price tag of at least a minimum of $1.6 billion, and that the land for the university still has not been decided. Vicky Dhillon also criticized Jeffrey for apparently taking too much unilateral action, acting as though her word supersedes everyone else's on council. Vicky Dhillon also threw in a shot at on how the last council blew away $400 million investigating the previous mayor, the high-spending Susan Fennell.
In response, Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon didn't waste any time refuting some of Vicky Dhillon's claims, at least the one he made about the university. On the same show, Gurpreet Dhillon referenced that Brampton received a partner for the new university: Ryerson in conjunction with Sheridan College as announced on March 14 (Vicky Dhillon's interview was published before this date). He also warned of misinformation being spread by potential 2018 municipal candidates as well as past failed candidates (a veiled shot at former councillor Dhillon).
InBrampton reached out to Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon and he provided this email statement:
The latest news that the Province will be reviewing Ryerson's expression of interest in expanding to Brampton is welcomed news. I am extremely proud of the efforts our residents, Council, staff and Blue Ribbon Panel in working hard to get to this point.
Intentional misinformation by the former councillor is disappointing. Going forward I invite him to work together with this Council so that we do what's best for our residents, in a positive and productive manner.
It's heartening that Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon indicated he wanted to reach out to his former opponent to try to achieve more positive outcomes, but I seriously doubt that would be happening anytime soon. However, it is a strange strategy for Vicky Dhillon to adopt, giving such a pessimistic outlook if he plans to run against Gurpreet Dhillon again, or in some other ward in the next election. One would rather talk about what can be done rather than what cannot be done if you're seeking votes. (InBrampton had reached out to Vicky Dhillon via Twitter for a response, but he has not responded as of this writing).
Ironically, the power of incumbency may now work in favour of the younger Dhillon should he face a rematch with Vicky in 2018. I don't see Gurpreet Dhillon losing his seat that easily, and he can also tap into a very active political base in Brampton that also supports one of Gurpreet's political allies, MPP Jagmeet Singh. Also, I think people in Brampton would prefer a more collaborative, positive approach rather than listen to a former councillor who still sounds bitter over losing his job two years ago.
A rematch between the Dhillons would certainly be a race to watch in Brampton's municipal elections in 2018.
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