VANCOUVER – The political future of a former member of Parliament who was recently acclaimed to run for the B.C. Liberals in the May election remains unclear as he winds his way through the legal system facing federal tax charges.
Sukhminder Dhaliwal, known as “Sukh,” is facing six counts in Surrey provincial court of failing to comply with the Income Tax Act and is scheduled to make his next appearance Feb. 21.
Dhaliwal is the party’s candidate in the riding of Surrey-Panorama and will replace the current MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who is the minister of children and family development but will seek re-election nearby.
The charges took many of his colleagues and even political adversaries by surprise.
Liberal party officials and Dhaliwal did not respond to questions about what the charges mean for the candidate in the south Surrey riding.
“It’s a serious matter, it is before the court, and it’s something that he’ll have to deal with obviously,” said Bruce Ralston, an NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley and the party’s finance critic.
“But whether or not he should resign is something that his party is going to have to decide, and it’s up to them, and if he doesn’t resign, or if he feels he can continue, then ultimately it’s something that the voters will have to pass judgment on.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong said while he has heard about the reports, he doesn’t know any details.
“It’s not a flattering report, as I understand it, or a positive situation, but I don’t know any more than that,” he said.
Even Cadieux said she knew little about the charges.
“The information you are providing me with today is something I have just learned about today, and as I understand, it is an issue that’s before the courts,” she said in an interview Thursday. “So it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.”
Earlier in the day, Dhaliwal told a local radio station he made a mistake in trusting other people to run the company where he and his wife are listed as the sole directors, but he said his taxes on his own company and even his personal taxes are up to date.
Dhaliwal said he is taking full responsibility and is working to resolve the situation
“The only time that I heard about these charges was after I became the candidate so the party knows about it now,” Dhaliwal told CKNW.
According to his Twitter account, Dhaliwal describes himself as a professional engineer, BC land surveyor, and small businessman.
He ran unsuccessfully for the federal Liberals in the riding of Newton-North Delta in 2004, but returned two years later, winning a seat in Parliament for two terms.
On May 2, 2011, he was defeated by the federal NDP’s Jinny Sims, a past president of the BC Teachers’ Federation.
The B.C. Liberals announced Oct. 31, 2012 that Dhaliwal had been acclaimed in Surrey-Panorama and would replace Cadieux, who’d be seeking re-election in the riding of Surrey-Cloverdale.
Surrey-Cloverdale is currently represented by MLA Kevin Falcon, a former cabinet minister who decided to not seek re-election.
According to court documents, Dhaliwal’s first appearance on the charges took place Nov. 26, 2012, almost one month after the party announced his acclamation.
Dhaliwal has lived in the riding since 1997.
“I am proud of the work I have done in my constituency and value the relationships I have formed since 2009,” he said in an Oct. 31 news release.
“The opportunity to run in the riding where I live makes sense for me personally, and also continues to allow me to deliver for all of Surrey.”