RALPH Sultan, appointed as the minister responsible for multiculturalism in the wake of a recent provincial scandal, said this week he agrees Liberal party strategists crossed the line when they drafted a plan to score "quick wins" in B.C.'s ethnic communities.
Sultan, MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, took over as minister of advanced education and minister responsible for multiculturalism this week after former minister John Yap stepped down over the ethnic vote scandal.
"The language of that unfortunate memo was wrong," said Sultan of the leaked document drafted by Premier Christy Clark's former deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, which outlined a plan to win quick votes with voters in ethnic communities, using government resources.
"There are some things that are OK and there are other things that are on the other side of the line and not OK," said Sultan. "It was judged this particular document was not OK."
But he added he sees the controversy getting more attention in Victoria than outside it. Sultan said he recently attended a Chinese New Year celebration for seniors in Richmond and "the subject didn't come up once."
But some members of North Shore ethnic communities have been less than impressed by the apparent Liberal plan to court voters.
"I think it's dirty politics," said Ali Safari, outside of the Persia Market on 15th Street. "I don't think it's appropriate."
Safari said if politicians want to deal with issues concerning ethnic communities they should do it throughout their term in office "not just at election time." He added, however, that he's more concerned with a balanced budget and issues of health and education than the scandal.
Paria Saremi, chair of the North Vancouver committee for the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians, said she thinks the leaked memo crosses the line and could have an impact on how members of the Persian community vote in the provincial election. Planning to use government resources to score quick political points is inappropriate, said Saremi.
She said her group tries to encourage members of the Iranian community to get involved in politics, but wants that to be meaningful over the long term.
Alvin Ko Relleve, a director of the Filipino Canadian Cultural Heritage Society of B.C. and president of an annual North Vancouver Filipino arts and cultural festival, was also unimpressed with the contents of the memo. "It's really an offending gesture from the (Liberal) party," he said. "I think it's uncalled for and something that shouldn't have happened."
He added, however, that most members of his community are more concerned about making a living than political manoeuvrings.
Sultan, meanwhile, said politicians of all stripes have always made attempts to reach out to ethnic communities, who make about a quarter of the population on the North Shore.