Brampton MPPs call out Amarjot Sandhu for missing crucial votes and silence on city’s big issues
Where is Amarjot Sandhu?
As his name was called out during this past Sunday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at Brampton City Hall, Rev. Joseph Murphy welcomed forward Brampton’s five MPPs to lay a wreath at the city cenotaph, naming each one aloud, including Sandhu, but the rookie Brampton West MPP was nowhere to be seen.
The other four elected officials who had also been invited stepped forward to represent themselves and their constituents during the memorial, which this year marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Brampton MPP Gurratan Singh
It wasn’t the only time questions have been asked about Sandhu’s absence.
The PC MPP who won the riding of Brampton West in last spring’s provincial election, has been part of meetings and committees but typically silent or even absent from the legislature when key issues for Brampton arise, and has not responded to a dozen media requests about crucial issues facing his constituents.
Sandhu has been AWOL during controversial moves inside Queen’s Park directly impacting Brampton, which have dominated the legislature over the past six weeks: His PC government, led by Premier Doug Ford, pulled $90 million in funding for the city’s first full university campus; Ford’s funding to fix “hallway healthcare”, a term popularized in Brampton because of the severe overcrowding in the only full-service hospital, completely ignored the city; and an NDP bill to lower Brampton’s sky-high auto insurance rates was killed by Sandhu’s government.
Brampton MPP Amarjot Sandhu
While the city’s other four MPPs have been busy on all three issues, while also speaking inside the legislature and to the media on a host of other pressing concerns impacting their constituents, Sandhu has been a ghost.
Kevin Yarde (NDP, Brampton North), a fellow MPP from the other side of the aisle, has harsh words for Sandhu, accusing him of being “pretty much a puppet to the premier” who takes his cues from Doug Ford. He accused Sandhu of working for Ford’s agenda “and not what his constituents want him to do.” Yarde claims Sandhu is “focused on pleasing Ford even if it is, of course, hurting Brampton families.
Brampton MPP Kevin Yarde
“Everyone knows that there are many many concerns in Brampton … My constituents expect me to vote and to show up to be behind all of these motions.”
When Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath tabled a motion on Oct. 16 to secure funding for extra beds for the city’s notoriously overburdened, lone full-service hospital, Brampton Civic, Sandhu was not present for the vote. The legislative transcript for the same day shows he was present in the legislature earlier in the day and participated in the proceedings right before the vote, but left prior to the decision.
Nor was he present during the vote when the NDP put forth a motion to reinstate provincial funding for the Ryerson University satellite campus that had been promised to Brampton. Once again, he was spotted in the legislature throughout the day but absented himself during the vote.
A spokesperson for his legislative office said that, during the votes in question, Sandhu “had to leave the House early to meet with constituents in Brampton due to prior commitments.” MPPs are instructed not to schedule meetings or other commitments when they are supposed to be present for votes inside the legislature, which is the central function of their job.
Sandhu has been particularly hard to reach for the press. The Pointer has repeatedly sought comment from him on various issues, but his legislative office’s voice mailbox has been full for months, and in a dozen attempts to reach him by phone and over email, he did not respond.
This is a sharp contrast to Brampton’s other four MPPs, who have returned calls to The Pointer and sent email responses to questions on a variety of crucial issues facing their constituents.
Sandhu, alongside fellow PC MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria — who was likewise absent for those votes — penned an open letter to Brampton residents on Oct. 25, two days after Premier Ford cancelled the campus funding, which, without mentioning their absence for the vote, repeated the party’s official justification for the cancellation.
Brampton MPPs Prabmeet Sarkaria and Amarjot Sandhu
“We knew that the previous Liberal Government was mismanaging your tax dollars, but thanks to the Independent Commission of Inquiry, we are now aware of exactly how wasteful the previous government was,” read the joint letter from the city’s two PC MPPs.
It continued, “Our Government would be willing to consider a business case for how these projects may proceed in the absence of provincial capital funding. Brampton deserves a thoughtful, sustainable proposal to bring post-secondary education to our city.”
The Pointer reached out to Sarkaria for comment on his colleague’s record, but neither he nor his office responded.
Sandhu was present during the second reading of fellow Brampton MPP Gurratan Singh’s Bill 44, which sought to classify the GTA as a single geographic area for auto insurance purposes, which would prevent alleged discrimination by the industry on the basis of a driver’s postal code. The legislature’s records show that he voted against the bill, which was defeated.
Brampton has the highest auto insurance rates in Ontario, 70 percent above the provincial average.
The PCs are promoting a bill by one of their MPPs, Milton’s Parm Gill, which they claim will use a more fair method to reduce auto insurance rates. Critics in Brampton say it won’t specifically address the problems facing drivers in the city.
“Based on the clear evidence of his voting record, I would say that he is not speaking for the interest of Bramptonians at all right now,” said Singh (NDP, Brampton East), who moved the defeated insurance bill.
“In the past two months, we have seen votes around every major issue in Brampton. From the hospital to the university and auto insurance, and we have seen the member, Sandhu, not speak and not vote.”
During the 45 days the legislature has been sitting thus far, Sandhu, who is a backbencher, has not said a single word on the record during 33. He was silent on 73 percent of days in the session. When he did speak, it was usually to introduce guests to the legislature, a common procedure at the beginning of a session.
In his time so far at Queen’s Park, he has given only two long speeches. The first was when the new government was in its infancy and new MPPs were making themselves known to each other. Sandhu officially introduced himself to the House saying, “I’m especially honoured to be the first international student in the history of Canada to be elected to the provincial legislature, on behalf of the constituents of Brampton West.”
The second time he rose to speak was to endorse Sarkaria’s bill to exempt orthodox Sikh motorcyclists from being obliged to wear helmets.
Committees are a different story. Soon after the election, the MPP for Brampton West was appointed to two committees. As part of the committee on general government, he has provided a lot of input on issues, just not ones related to Brampton specifically. The record shows that Sandhu, in four of the committee’s five meetings, spoke passionately in favour of scrapping the cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions brought in by the prior Liberal government, legislation that affects Ontario as a whole.
He said next to nothing during the three meetings of the committee on regulations and private bills. The only action he took was to nominate Natalia Kusendova (PC, Mississauga Centre) as vice-chair of the committee.
During this past Sunday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at Brampton City Hall marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, when Rev. Joseph Murphy called the names of Brampton’s five MPPs to lay a wreath, Sandhu’s absence after being invited to mark the end of the most horrific war in history while honouring all those who have served to protect freedom, seemed particularly inappropriate.
According to his Facebook page, he did attend a commemoration the previous week at Branch 609 of the Royal Canadian Legion. He was there along with Brampton’s federal MPs Ruby Sahota, Raj Grewal and Ramesh Sangha — all of whom were present at the City Hall ceremony as well.
The day after the motion to re-fund a Ryerson campus in Brampton was quashed by the PCs, MPP Sara Singh (NDP, Brampton Centre) attacked members opposite her, complaining that “not a single government member from the Brampton side stood up to be counted on yesterday’s motion to preserve funding to our universities.”
Brampton MPP Sara Singh
In a statement emailed to The Pointer, Sara Singh said, “Sandhu should be in the House for votes that are important to Brampton, and voting with Brampton's best interests in mind, not just the best interests of Ford and his friends.”
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