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HomeBusinessCampaign manager who blew the whistle on Gurveen Dhaliwal speaks out

Campaign manager who blew the whistle on Gurveen Dhaliwal speaks out

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Bob Mackin

A rival party’s campaign manager, who complained to New Westminster Police about Gurveen Dhaliwal scrutineering while running for re-election to the school board, said her integrity remains questionable.

The B.C. Prosecution Service published lawyer John Gordon’s recommendation on July 6, finding Dhaliwal likely contravened the Local Government Act, but it was not in the public interest to charge her.

Community First New West’s Gurveen Dhaliwal (Twitter)

“Students and parents should really consider whether someone who has been explicitly trained and informed to not attend a voting place, other than for voting, but yet claim a mistake to have done so, should be qualified to make decisions for students and parents in the community of New Westminster,” Jason Chan of the New West Progressives said in an interview.

Chan was scrutineering at the Queensborough Community Centre polling station last Oct. 5 when he recognized Dhaliwal. He confirmed with election staff on-site that the 2018-elected Community First New West candidate had been acting as a scrutineer. Election officials referred Chan to the police and he formally complained Oct. 9. They investigated and forwarded a report to Crown counsel earlier this year. 

In a May 1 cabinet order, Dhaliwal was named a ministerial assistant to Health Minister Adrian Dix. Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peter Juk secretly appointed Gordon on May 4, the same day that a reporter unsuccessfully sought comment from Dhaliwal, Juk, Dix and Premier David Eby.

Dhaliwal was shuffled from Dix’s office without explanation to the office of Labour Minister Harry Bains on May 15. Eleven days later, on May 26, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced Juk had appointed Gordon. Gordon submitted his recommendation to Juk on June 29. 

Chan said he was “flabbergasted” that both Dhaliwal and Community First New West city council candidate Ruby Campbell (on whose behalf Dhaliwal attended the voting station) failed to heed the detailed warnings from candidate manuals and in-person from New Westminster’s chief election officer Jacque Killawee.

Chan said he attended candidate meetings where Killawee was clear, repetitive and emphatic about the rules and regulations, including the one that he saw Dhaliwal disobey.

“(She) painstakingly went through what are the ‘can do’s’ and ‘must not do’s,’ including candidates cannot attend the place of voting, other than voting themselves,” Chan said. 

By keeping her seat in the Oct. 15 election, Chan also noted that Dhaliwal was subject to the School Act’s oath of office, which states: “I have not, by myself or any other person, knowingly contravened the School Act respecting vote buying, intimidation or other election offences in relation to my election as a trustee.”

Dhaliwal, a member of the NDP-aligned party, stepped aside as school board chair a month ago due to the investigation. 

After the incident last October, Cheryl Greenhalgh, the chair of Community First New West — but not Dhaliwal herself — admitted in a statement that Dhaliwal regretted her mistake and she had intended to observe the process and provide information to other volunteer scrutineers.

Dhaliwal did not respond for comment on Thursday, but her lawyer, Joven Narwal, told the New Westminster Record that Dhaliwal was “vindicated by this decision.”  

Gordon listed several public interest factors against charging Dhaliwal, including the offence was committed due to genuine mistake or misunderstanding of fact, the loss or harm as a result of a single incident was minor in nature, and Dhaliwal has no prior criminal record. 

Gurveen Dhaliwal (Twitter)

“Her background of community involvement speaks well of her,” said the BCPS statement. “Her re-election to a second term shows she is well regarded in New Westminster.”

If Dhaliwal had been charged and convicted, she could have faced a maximum $5,000 fine and year in jail. 

Gordon’s investigation found Dhaliwal spent 20 minutes as a scrutineer after she voted. While she did not identify herself as a candidate, the presiding election official did not ask if she was a candidate and mistakenly neglected to check her name against the list of candidates. 

Gordon speculated that Dhaliwal could have successfully argued in court that she was “induced by the election official’s error” and therefore permitted by the official.

Gordon also noted that when Killawee became aware of the incident, she took steps to notify all parties and there was no known recurrence. 

“The incident was isolated. Ms. Dhaliwal has not demonstrated a wilful or repeated non-compliance with the Act and the ‘integrity of regulatory scheme,’ specifically the electoral process, was not, in the particular circumstances of this case, adversely affected,” said the BCPS statement.

Prior to the May cabinet order, Dhaliwal had been appointed in February 2021 to be an aide to Minister of State for Infrastructure Bowinn Ma. She previously worked for Richmond-Queensborough MLA Aman Singh’s campaign and in the constituency office of Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Katrina Chen. 

On May 27, the day after the special prosecutor was announced, Eby told reporters that Dhaliwal had been placed on administrative leave. His staff did not respond to questions about whether she continued to receive pay and benefits. 

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