A few thoughts and observations on politics and truck drivers

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Pradip Rodrigues

Last week I met with a provincial party candidate who happened to be South Asian, if you haven’t been paying attention, most of them in the Peel Region seem to be overwhelmingly South Asian, it is as if no other immigrant groups live in the region anymore, care to enter politics or stand a chance against the formidable South Asian juggernaut.

The party candidate was an immigrant who came to Canada 19 years ago and says he enjoys door knocking and connecting with voters in his riding. But his biggest challenge however wasn’t tackling criticism and other policy issues raised by his opponent, but dealing with the individuals who lost in the bruising nomination battle. Needless to say all those nominees were also South Asian. It would seem as though these losers were working for his opponent because the bad-mouthing and whispering of rumors about him keep coming back to him from his supporters.

He is fighting a campaign against him launched by individuals in his own party. The problem is that many South Asian nominees who join political parties based on which party would agree to supporting their nomination so party loyalty doesn’t come into the picture.

Another party nominee who lost was told that although he was South Asian, he did not belong to the region that most of the constituents belonged, neither did he have the support of party members who were already throwing in support behind ‘one of their own’. Furthermore, he was not a ‘visible minority’ as in he was too Canadian in his look and attitude and would not be able to connect with the community in the riding. It was almost as if this was an Indian election where no other ethnicities resided in the riding.

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The feeling seems to be that while other ethnicities and whites in particular are more interested in the party platform and cast their vote depending on how closely it represents their values, a large section of South Asian voters support candidates based on similar ethnicity and culture, so much for multicultural Canada.

When it comes to casting a vote for a candidate with a South Asian background, things like caste, religion and ‘look’ matters and of course if the ethnic politician spoke their language, it would speak volumes for the candidate. If the politician was white, then none of these qualities would matter as long as he or she graced their events, danced at their festivals and was happy to pose for pictures with various stakeholders.

Over the years I have asked many first-generation South Asian party candidates and politicians why they got into politics and what their next move is and invariably they insist their decision was to selflessly work in service of the community and make a difference. I get understandably nervous when they say things like that! After all South Asians are excellent at plenty of things like computer science, medicine and banking, however I am not so sure politics is one of them. I am going by the track record of politicians in the old country that drove many of us to the first world.

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It reminds me of a quote attributed to the controversial Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar Laloo Prasad Yadav who wondered why Bihar was still a backward state. The Japanese told Laloo to give Bihar to them for three years and they promised they would make Bihar like Japan.

Laloo pondered a bit and replied to Japanese Diplomats “Give me Japan for three days, I will make Japan like Bihar”.

When I see the kind of ethnic politicians making their debut in Canadian politics, I can’t help but shudder and expect the worst.

Sikh truck drivers inching toward a majority

Recently Overdrive magazine, the self-described “Voice of The American Trucker”, featured for the first time a Sikh driver on its cover.

This was acknowledgment of the fact that there are approximately 150,000 Sikhs in trucking in the US, 90% of whom are drivers. And those numbers are growing faster than any other ethnicity, for example 18,000 Sikhs entering the industry in 2017 alone. The North American Punjabi Trucking Association (NAPTA) estimates that Sikhs control about 40% of trucking in California.

Here in Canada, Sikhs make up 60 percent of drivers and owner-operators. And there is a reason for this, Canadian and American young people are turned off by the hard work being a trucker involves- long hours on the road, away from family and the hard life it involves.

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The American Trucking Associations warned of a shortage of 50,000 drivers by the end of 2017, rising to 174,000 by 2026. Sikh truck drivers on the other hand are mostly immigrants from India and have no issue driving a truck if it offers them steady work and a decent income. Now it is unlikely that Sikh kids who’ve grown up in Canada would consider trucking as a career, especially if he or she has gone to university. Furthermore many Sikh immigrant truck drivers would prefer if their kids got a great education and became doctors or financial whizzes.

Unless ofcourse trucking is a family business, then the kid who inherits the business simply has to manage and grow it. And given the great scope for growth in trucking operations in both Canada and the USA, this is an especially good time for anyone in the business or thinking about entering it.

But what happens 20 years down the line if and when self-driving trucks become the norm? What will happen to the thousands of young truck drivers who will find themselves at the crossroads? I have yet to read an article exploring the effects of that possibility. -CINEWS

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