Saturday, January 12, 2002

A rising star on Canadian political horizon
Prabhjot Singh

CANADIAN Parliamentarian Gurmant Singh Grewal, tipped for a bigger role in the Opposition in the House of Commons, was here recently. Born in 1957 in Ludhiana, Gurmant's rise in the Canadian political scene has been unprecedented. His parents, both school teachers, played a pivotal role in shaping his personality.

Gurmant Grewal
Gurmant Grewal

Now when Stockwell Day, leader of the Canadian Alliance, the main party in the Opposition, has stepped down, all eyes are on Gurmant Grewal. He is expected to take on a bigger role.

At the age of eight years, Gurmant and his younger brother had an opportunity to welcome Hubert Humphrey, Vice-President of the USA, for the inauguration of a local hospital.

Humphrey had invited the Grewal brothers to the Vice-President's Gallery at the United States Senate Chamber. This came as a defining moment in the life of young Gurmant, who learnt to appreciate the value and contribution that a politician could make to a community.


A brilliant student and a scholarship holder, Gurmant did B.Sc. Agriculture (Honours) and then M.B.A. from PAU, Ludhiana, in 1981. During his MBA studies, he was selected to conduct a study for Dunlop and Sandoz. He got his first job with DCM, the fourth-largest private sector company in India at that time. Within a year, he rose to be the Area Manager (northern India) of another company, a British conglomerate.

Even that could not satisfy him, he resigned and went to Liberia with $20 in his pocket. There Gurmant and his brother excelled in doing business, and represented and served major international corporations, both as suppliers and customers. He also taught senior BBA students for four years at the University of Liberia in West Africa.

In 1991, Gurmant migrated to Canada along with his wife Narinder and two sons. Soon he busied himself in community welfare programmes. He became the first non-Caucasian to be elected as director of the second largest credit union of Canada.

Since Gurmant wanted to join politics, he sought nomination for MLA in the BC Liberal Party but fell victim to unfair practices. He lost in the provincial election as the Reform Party candidate.

In the 1997 federal election, Gurmant Grewal became the first Sikh to be elected as Member of Parliament (MP) in the new riding of Surrey Central for the Reform Party. He set a record in 132 years of Canadian history by becoming an MP in less than six years after migrating to Canada. He is the first Sikh MP elected to the Official Opposition of Canada.

In 1998, Gurmant accompanied Preston Manning, the Leader of the Reform Party, to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This was the first visit to Punjab by a leader of a federal political party in Canadian history.

Gurmant has held prominent positions in Her Majesty's Loyal Official Opposition of Canada. Only a year after his election, Gurmant was appointed the Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition. He was elected Co-Chair of the Joint Standing Committee of the House of Commons and the Senate for the Scrutiny of Regulations, for the third time.

Gurmant is one of the only two Opposition MPs to be elected as Chairman of a committee in the Canadian Parliament. He has been appointed the Chief Critic, Foreign Affairs, for the Official Opposition.

After working from Monday to Friday in Ottawa, 3000 km away from Surrey, Gurmant opens his constituency office on Saturdays and is known for promptly addressing constituents’ concerns.

He is known to be a gutsy politician, who tackles tough issues head-on. Surrey Central is the largest constituency in Canada in terms of population — it houses the largest concentration of Sikhs anywhere in the world outside Punjab. Gurmant's margin of victory in the second term was 10,225 as compared to 2,866 in the first election, thus speaking for his popularity.

Last year, Gurmant accompanied the Canadian Immigration Minister to India and Chandigarh. He has been greatly instrumental in getting the Chandigarh's trade office of Canadian High Commission upgraded to a Visa office from April 1.