How can I encourage others to participate if I’m not ready to do this myself? – By Ray Hudson

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Puneet Sandhar

Puneet Sandhar: Liberal Candidate for Surrey Panorama 

:  Puneet Sandhar before a painting reminiscent of the multicultural nature of Surrey Panorama.
Puneet Sandhar before a painting reminiscent of the multicultural nature of Surrey Panorama.

When Puneet Sandhar came to Canada, she already had her law degree, earned in the Punjab in India. In her practice in Surrey, she specializes in real estate law, buying and selling homes, real estate development and commercial buildings. This affords her a front row seat on the development of her community as a partner in the Sanghera Sandhar Law Group. As with any foreign lawyer coming to Canada she had to go through an accreditation process. She talked with Ray Hudson about that and her decision to run for office.

Puneet Sandhar: I came here in 2002 and started writing my accreditation exams a month after I landed, finishing in about a year and a half. After that I had to article for a year, which was a challenge because I wasn’t a graduate from a Canadian University. It’s the old ‘can’t get a position without Canadian experience’ situation. Eventually I got on with a firm in Vancouver and was called to the Bar in 2006. I’ve been practicing in Surrey for ten years.

Ray Hudson:You’re a successful lawyer, a mother with two small girls as well as active in the Surrey community, so why provincial politics? It’s pretty much an all-consuming job.

Puneet Sandhar: It really wasn’t my plan to get into the political side but I have been very actively involved with the Liberal Party on various initiatives and programs, working alongside Premier Christy Clark. I believe in her leadership. When the Premier asked me if I could run, my first reaction was ‘maybe not, I’m not sure, let me think about it.’ The firm is doing well, I have two beautiful girls and a wonderful partner, and everything is great at my stage in life so why would I want to change now?

My husband and I have both been very active community participants and we do believe in giving back. Since we moved to Canada, even though we weren’t very financially stable, struggling with challenges like any other new immigrant, we would always want to do whatever we could in our capacity. We contributed to various charities, I mentored school kids and new immigrants, and have been a part of the South Asian Business Association. I’m a Rotarian and I sit on various other boards as well. When you think of politics, it’s not really different from what I’m already doing.

I also thought, yes I do have responsibilities as a mother, as a wife, a partner in my firm, but I also have obligations towards this community where I have lived settled and thrived. I have an obligation to my kids, so with this opportunity to be part of the system, I can help shape the future for my kids here. I have an obligation to take that opportunity.

The other factor in making my decision was that I have been a passionate advocate of women participating in politics. And that doesn’t mean just by running for office. Last year I organized an event where I encouraged women to come and listen to politicians as well as people who are not politicians but are involved in the political arena. So I thought, I’m encouraging women to become more aware of politics and participate because they should be aware of what is going on in politics how that affects their day to day lives. The problem is that although we want someone to do that, we want that someone to be someone else. So I asked myself if I’m not ready to do this, how am I going to encourage others to participate? That’s the point at which I made the decision to get involved.

Ray Hudson: What are your specific interests should you be elected?

Puneet Sandhar: First and foremost, education. My daughters are going to go through the whole education system in this country, and coming from South Asian backgrounds, and I’m sure it’s the same with every other parent, education is of utmost importance. We work two jobs, three jobs just to make sure our kids can go to university and get the best education possible. My parents did the same for me and my brother, and so for me it will be the utmost priority to see where there would be room for improvement. Particularly in Surrey there is a lot of growth and lots of young families with kids coming in. We need to be able to use the resources as best we can.

Next would be health, again for the same reason. I’ve lived in Surrey and I’ve seen there’s a huge population that needs to go through the medical system. Our government has done an amazing job building this amazing facility (Surrey Memorial Hospital) and lots of other investments across the province over the last four years as well. My focus as a Surrey resident will be to insure that the available resources and the huge influx of people coming to Surrey, are matching.

Ray Hudson: Surrey has a very diverse population along with the large South Asian group with the Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Syrian communities and others. How will you stay current with the issues of all these people?

Puneet Sandhar: I like to know what’s happening so I’m very actively involved in the community. Just through my practice, I see eighty to ninety families a month, families from all sorts of backgrounds. As well, I’m well plugged in through the various business organizations I’m involved in, I sit on various boards, I serve on various committees. Now, getting into the political field, I’m going out and just talking to people asking about their issues and concerns.

Ray Hudson: Anything further?

Puneet Sandhar: I’m stepping from a thriving legal practice to come into politics for just one reason, I want to be able to serve. I want to offer my perspective as a mother, as a South Asian female, as a business woman, as a partner in a business, as a lawyer who deals with lots of residents on a regular basis, as an immigrant, as someone who has set up her own business and employs people. I think all of my experiences coupled with my nature of always having been passionate about the issues of the community long before I thought of stepping into politics, will help me bring the best that a candidate can bring into the role as an MLA.

Next week’s profile will be the NDP Candidate for Panorama, Jinny Sims.