Chak De, Takhar!
by BINOY THOMAS
Mississauga: This week I have some happy news to share with you. Of course, by the time you read this, it will be a bit stale – Harinder Takhar, Minister for Government Services, as you know has thrown his hat (no he never wears a hat otherwise) into the Liberal leadership race, already crowded with six or seven candidates.
Normally, when I am on the subject of politics and politicians, I am skeptical, cynical and negative, especially the kind of politics that ‘managed’ democracy has thrust upon us where screeching interest groups ride roughshod over the silent majority. But this is different. This is almost an Obama moment as far as we South Asians are concerned in this Province and I am glad that it is Takhar who is stepping up to the podium demanding to be recognized.
Let’s face it, he is the new face of Ontario, especially GTA, and I do not mean that lightly as just another ethnic star. I have watched Takhar with admiration and sometimes with frustration, knowing well, what he must be thinking of some of the recent shenanigans, and what he stands for. And more importantly, what he is capable of if given the right corner office.
Late Wednesday night, he called me to confirm, “Yes, I am going for it.” He says there are a couple of reasons why he decided to join the race. “First of all, I have been talking to my people, the people within and some outside the party, who have been supporting me all these years, and they felt that I should go for it and have encouraged me.” That could be said of most candidates. But the next reason is why I personally would root for him. “I think given my experience in different levels of government and before that in business, I think I have a lot to contribute to get our Province’s fiscal situation under control,” he pointed out.
Takhar over the past decade has been a part and parcel of the McGuinty administration, and has from all reports, discharged the duties assigned to him, some very tricky ones, honestly and honorably. When his record is held up against some of his colleagues and their well-known scandals and shameful episodes, this is a track record that his Party or the Ontarians cannot ignore. “I want all Ontarians to be prosperous, and I am committing myself to the people of Ontario.”
Of course, before he can set Ontario right, he needs his party’s majority support. His candidature, announced two days before deadline may appear like a charge from the left field. To many, he is that nice and always smiling fellow who knows his numbers (and dare I say, his place), and quietly gets the job done, without ever hogging the limelight. Well, now is the time, they need a quiet worker, an able administrator, an ‘outsider’ if you may, because the Ontario Liberal party is not in very good shape, and the NDP and PC are just counting the days and nights before they believe they can call the shots.
A third very important reason could be his desire to bring the community front and centre like no other person can. If and when he succeeds, it would be a New Year wish fulfilled for hundreds of thousands from within the South Asian community, but also a sound recognition of the changing demography of Ontario. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first one. That history-making chance was grabbed by another of his ilk a few years ago, when Ujjal Dosanjh became the Premier of British Columbia, ironically, under similarly trying circumstances within the party that he belonged to.
Takhar carries very little baggage and as much as he is a surprise candidate, he can produce a few surprises on his own, as his image has not been tarnished or taken a hit like some of his competition. Takhar believes that he would receive wider support from the Party base, not just here, but from outside GTA. And he is going to take his message to that base a little more forcefully beginning this weekend.
Takhar believes that it’s time everybody sat together seriously and tackled Ontario’s problems. “If I am given this opportunity, I would try my best to sit with the Opposition and come to a consensus on how to get the job done.” And he promises not to be stubborn or partisan. “No one has a monopoly on good ideas. Good ideas can come from anyone, and if it’s from the Opposition, yes, I will be ready to sit down and take it further.”
A no-confidence motion looms over the Liberals sometime next year. Anyone assuming the charge may see his tenure cut short. Takhar is more hopeful, “It doesn’t have to be. If we can find a way to work together with the Opposition, for the betterment of all Ontarians, then our government can last out the term.”
Will he be the man to do it, take us a to a better future? Politics is staged in a strange arena where winners are often picked from the sidelines, and champions turn into villains. Takhar can rightfully position himself as the people’s candidate, who knows how to bridge the chasm that is building between the classes and help build a really, I mean really, inclusive, new Ontario.
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