The controversy over how the B.C. Liberals were planning use taxpayer dollars to reach out to the province's ethnic community for political support in the upcoming election shouldn't tarnish the work local MLAs Pat Bell and Shirley Bond have done with the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society (IMSS) in the last decade.
There's nothing inherently wrong with a political party targeting its message to a specific demographic, whether it's based on age, gender, race or religion.
The federal Conservatives, for example, achieved their long-sought after majority by specifically targeting ethnic suburban communities in Greater Toronto, and to a lesser extent Vancouver, for support. And the Conservatives didn't exactly create this plan; the federal Liberals had done it for decades before. The only difference is the Conservatives brought a new level of sophistication to focusing on specific communities in certain ridings.
The wrong at issue here is to what extent public money was used for what is clearly political gain.
The B.C. Liberals have already apologized, which is the right thing to do, but that's just the first step. Explaining how it happened and what is being done to ensure it doesn't happen again is still to come.
But this controversy has nothing to do with the great work IMSS has done under its tireless executive director Baljit Sethi. The success of IMSS has come from the careful work Sethi and her team have done by building strong relationships across the community, including personal connections with political leaders.
One of the outcomes of the connection between Sethi and Bond has been the Healthier You Expo. The Citizen has proudly partnered with the two women to bring health information and education to the community, in the hopes of giving residents the tools to make themselves healthier and happier.
Both Bell and Bond embraced the work of the IMSS because they realized how the successful integration of new immigrants into the Northern B.C. was good for the community economically, socially and culturally. This had nothing to do with pandering for a few votes. Their efforts were about doing the right thing, for the community and for new residents from distant lands.
From the ridiculous ad campaign to this half-baked effort to lure ethnic votes, there seems to be a disturbing willingness for the B.C. Liberals to use public funds to help pay for their election campaign.
But that shouldn't detract in any way from the great work the IMSS has done or the wholehearted support it has received over the years from our Liberal MLAs.