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|February 26, 2000|
Family values first: New premier
A P Kamath
"I want to put the values of today's families first," said Ujjal Dosanjh at his swearing in as the 33rd premier of British Columbia.
"The new challenges facing families demand new policies and new approaches from their government," said the 52-year-old lawyer turned politician, who is married to his college sweetheart, Raminder, and has three grown children. He is the first Asian to become a premier of any province in Canada.
Dosanjh, who was elected last week at the convention of New Democratic Party following a bitterly contested campaign, said his priority is to change the way the government conducts the public's business.
"I want to cool down the hot politics in Victoria with more co-operation and less partisanship," he said. "It's time to end the constant need to pick fights with Ottawa, our American neighbors and with each other in the legislature."
Following the swearing-in, Dosanjh will fly to Quesnel to open the BC Winter Games. "My first act as premier is to go to the North," said Dosanjh. "I want to be a premier for the entire province and stay in touch with every region of BC."
Dosanjh, who was born in Punjab in 1947, migrated to Canada in 1968 after working in England in a crayon factory for several years.
In Canada, he went to night school while working in timber mills in British Columbia. He became a full-time student when he broke his back in an accident. After getting a degree in political science, Dosanjh whose heroes include Mahatma Gandhi and John F Kennedy, went to law school. "I was convinced that being a lawyer and a politician could make a lot of difference," he said. "I believe law is an instrument for change."
He was first elected as an MLA in 1991 representing the riding of Vancouver-Kensington. Most recently he has held the post of attorney general and minister responsible for multiculturalism, immigration and human rights.
Dosanjh faces a tough road ahead: polls point out that if elections are held today, the NDP will get about 10 per cent of the votes. But polls also say that if Dosanjh leads the party, it has a fighting chance to form the next government, and defeat the Liberal Party.
He also has to mollify dissidents in his own party, particularly Moe Sihota, currently a cabinet minister, who hates Dosanjh's dislike for Khalistani politics and backed Education Minister Gordon Wilson against Dosanjh for the premier's race.
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