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Critic Questions Why Former Liberal MP's Tax Charges Ignored

Running this election in Surrey-Newton, Sukh Dhaliwal pled guilty to three counts in 2014.

By Andrew MacLeod 12 Oct 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Approved and supported by the Liberal party, Sukh Dhaliwal says he's visited 20,000 doorsteps during his campaign. 'I haven't had a single comment on this issue.'

Several federal election candidates have ended their campaigns after foolish things they've said on social media websites have come to light, but a former member of Parliament who pled guilty in 2014 to charges under the Income Tax Act remains in the race.

"Sukh Dhaliwal, while an MP from 2006 [to] 2011, failed to file tax returns for his company and was later charged under the Income Tax Act," former NDP MLA Guy Gentner wrote in a recent Facebook post.

"The imprudent actions of an experienced politician, a former MP at that, has gone virtually unnoticed by the media," he wrote.

Meanwhile the media and opponents have vigorously attacked other candidates, mainly rookies, for untoward comments posted to social media sites, some of them long ago, he said.

During the campaign period more than a dozen candidates have dropped out or had to apologize after the discovery of comments they'd made about 9/11, Palestine, Israel, Muslims, homosexuality and other topics.

In an interview, Gentner noted that Dhaliwal wanted to run as a BC Liberal in the 2013 provincial election, but the provincial party wouldn't accept Dhaliwal's candidacy while he faced charges under Canada's tax laws.

But now after pleading guilty, Dhaliwal appears welcome to run with Justin Trudeau's Liberals and nobody seems to care, Gentner said.

Guilty plea, $3,000 fine

Dhaliwal represented Newton-North Delta until 2011 in the federal Parliament and is running against NDP incumbent Jinny Sims and Conservative Harpreet Singh in the new riding of Surrey-Newton. Based on transposed results from the 2011 election, the vote is expected to be close.

In 2012, Dhaliwal was charged with six counts under the Income Tax Act related to Genco Consultants Inc.'s failure to file corporate income tax returns for all but one year between 2004 and 2010. Dhaliwal was president of Genco, his wife Roni was secretary, and there were no other directors.

Each count said that despite personally receiving notice of the need to file, Dhaliwal "did unlawfully direct, authorize, assent to, acquiesce in or participate in Genco Consultants Inc.'s failure to file a completed Corporate Income Tax Return."

Dhaliwal pled guilty to three of the counts and in 2014 was fined $3,000.

His wife Roni faced 14 charges related to Genco, pled guilty to five of them, and was fined $5,000.

Administrative matter, Dhaliwal says

When Dhaliwal re-entered politics to run federally, media outlets did pay some attention to his record. "This was an administrative matter," the Vancouver Sun quoted him saying in September 2014. "I took the responsibility, I dealt with it. Everything's all up to date and now is the time to look forward."

In December 2014, the Georgia Straight quoted Liberal party B.C. campaign spokesperson Mike Witherly as saying Dhaliwal was guilty of not filing the returns, but didn't owe any money. "He just didn't do the paper work. It's pretty mundane in terms of that issue."

Court documents are silent on whether or not Genco owed money for taxes, and the fines were low considering the offences carry a maximum penalty of $25,000 and a year in jail.

Dhaliwal said in an Oct. 7 interview that he has visited 20,000 doorsteps during the campaign. "I haven't had a single comment on this issue," he said, adding people want to talk about crime prevention, opportunities for young people and raising the middle class. "I'm hearing people are tired and fed up with the Conservatives right now."

He said he went through an extensive approval process with the party, that the nomination process was competitive, and now it's up to voters in Surrey-Newton to decide who they want to represent them.

There's no comparison between his situation and those of candidates whose past comments have caught up with them, Dhaliwal said. Asked if voters should also get to decide in those situations as well, he said, "It's up to the party leadership to make that decision."  [Tyee]

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