Brown’s “personal” trip to India prompting speculation about what it means for Brampton
Brampton residents have been watching Mayor Patrick Brown’s moves on social media with a sharp eye after it was revealed he was in India on his 19th visit there for what was billed as a “personal trip” yet meeting with high government officials.
Wednesday afternoon, after a series of photos were posted on Facebook, a frenzy of speculation began about the state of the university project in Brampton and whether some kind of deal is in the works with a university in India.
Gulab Singh Saini, who is a staffer in the mayor's office and is on the trip with Brown (which the mayor’s office is calling a “personal” visit), posted photos showing the two of them sitting with a large of group of men and women, in front of a placard that said: Anna University.
Singh captioned the photo “at Amma University Chennai,” a misspelling of the name of the public technical post-secondary institution, which specializes in engineering and technology. Chennai is a city of seven million residents on India’s south-east coast and is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of India’s information-technology hubs that produces large numbers of computer-industry professionals and features a number of high profile post-secondary institutions that focus on the sector.
While comments on Singh’s post were calm and congratulatory, the response to radio host Deepak Punj’s post to Frontline Canada’s page (the name of his radio show, which targets the local South Asian-Canadian market), in which he shared the photos, went further. “Looks like Sri Patrick Brown and delegates are all set to bring Amma [Anna] university campus in Brampton after the failure of Ryerson campus,” read the caption on Punj’s post. It’s unclear why the radio host made the comments. The Pointer could not confirm his speculation.
Commenters appeared confused about the context behind the photos and began speculating about what they meant. “Amma [sic] university could be expensive ... they won’t do like other generic universities ... may not be affordable for low/middle class student is my thought,” wrote Sounder Dilipan.
Sanjit Singh appeared to take the post at face value, commenting: “I would like to see a Canadian university. That’s quite unfortunate. The value of a university is its reputation. No one here in Canada has heard about this university that none of us know how to pronounce. On top of it it’s a private university so it will be expensive, lack in reputation and lack in the Canadian university experience.”
The establishment of a foreign-based university in Brampton, even with a small presence, would require a series of approvals at all three levels of government and the finalization of many other details, before any plans could move forward. It’s possible that Brown’s meeting with the people in the photo could have been a very early introduction or not even related to a university plan at all.
Gary Collins, the mayor’s director of communications, responding to questions about whether there was any credence to the social-media rumours, repeated his comments earlier in the week that Brown was in India on a “personal trip.”
“As this trip is personal for the mayor I am not aware of his schedule. As you know, this is his 19th visit to India. He has developed many good relationships with political, business, educational and cultural leaders across the country. I am confident the Mayor will share some details of his trip on his return on the weekend,” Collins told The Pointer in an email.
Mayor Patrick Brown meets with a Sikh religious dignitary
Regardless of the “personal trip” description, Brown has been photographed meeting with top religious dignitaries and government officials while visiting India. Tweets show him chatting with the chief ministers (the equivalent of a provincial premier) of Punjab and Haryana. Brown has made no secret of his close relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Brown’s wife, Genevieve Gualtieri, is not on the vacation with him. She was in downtown Brampton Tuesday night delivering a speech at the vigil held in honour of Riya Rajkumar, the 11-year-old Mississauga girl who was found dead last week at the Brampton home of her father (he died of a self-inflicted wound Wednesday after being charged for murder).
It’s not the first time Brown has gone to India without many in the public knowing about it. In his memoir, Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, he details sneaking out of a House of Commons session when he was a backbench MP to jump on a plane for India after being invited by officials there to attend an event. Brown wrote in his book that he was later admonished by his Conservative party brass for doing it without their knowledge.
But at City Council’s Wednesday meeting, which the mayor missed because of his trip, members didn’t seem to mind.
“I think this trip was planned prior to being elected. It’s a trip to India. It’s not something you just do overnight. But we were certainly aware of it because I attended a lot of things as acting mayor when he’s away,” Councillor Doug Whillans told The Pointer after Wednesday’s council meeting. “To my knowledge it was always personal, because he has a lot of close friends [in India].”
“Having been there so many times, [Brown] obviously developed lots of relationships … and I think there will be good-news announcements coming out of this trip,” Collins told The Pointer on Tuesday.
“He’s met with them in the past and they’re happy he’s visiting. Will some business come out of this? I suspect so. Just the nature of him being there, connecting with the government and business leaders that he’s known for a period of time.”
Brown has indicated he wants to open Brampton to foreign investment and said during the State of the City address that he had “very encouraging meetings with our consular offices. It is very clear they are looking for municipalities where they can take people visiting. I’ve been encouraged by our consular officers. They seem to have a real interest in Brampton right now.”
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