By Samuel Getachew
In Canada, the South Asian’s are one of the most political active communities. Despite all of the successes, British Columbia’s Ujal Dusanji remains to be the one, and still the first and only (former or current) Premier of a Canadian province of South Asian heritage. Rana Bokhari intends to become the second.
Bokhari is running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberals and ultimately Premier of her province. In doing that, she just may be the one person who can rebuild the once neglected party and make the Manitoba Liberals relevant and an alternative to the Manitoba NDP government. Bokhari reflects with me her biography as well as looks ahead to the future. In the meantime, I cannot help but admire her eloquence, brilliance and passion.
You were once described as “Law student by day; superwoman by night and whenever there’s trouble in the world, people call Rana Bokhari”. That is a great compliment. Share with me your journey so far.
Born and raised in rural Manitoba on a family farm, I learned the importance of a good work ethic and seizing opportunities when they arise. After enrolling at the University of Manitoba, I realized how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to learn a profession. It was during this time that I started to do charitable fundraising work for those who are less fortunate as well as international causes like the floods in Haiti and Pakistan. Giving back has become a passion of mine and I have been honoured to be acknowledged by many non-profits as a reliable fundraiser for their causes.
I am a proud Manitoban and because this province has given so much to me, I would like to give back to my province as leader of the Manitoba Liberals. Politics in this province has become polarized and divisive, but I know the Manitoba Liberals, with my leadership, can offer Manitobans a real positive alternative to the current status quo. Manitobans deserve better.
You are now running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberals. How long were you involved with the party and what are some of the initiatives you are bringing to the race?
I have been involved with the Manitoba Liberal Party for over six years and I am keenly aware of the internal problems that we face. My initiatives are focused on building a stronger and more inclusive Party, first and foremost. This means reaching out to Manitobans who have felt ignored by the political process and showing them that they can have a home in the Liberal Party.
It also means doing a lot of fundraising work so that we can run a professional and successful election in 2015, which I feel uniquely qualified to accomplish. And lastly, we will build a policy platform that reflects the concerns of our members and the public at large. Everything from healthcare to education to the environment needs to be addressed with a scientific and factual rationale, instead of the ideological responses we get from our current government.
Why the Liberal party?
My values are in sync with Liberal Party values. I know that the Manitoba Liberal Party can do a better job of connecting with voters, but it will take hard work. Not unlike the kind of outreach that Justin Trudeau has been busy doing for the federal Liberal Party. Having already signed up over 500 new members to the Manitoba Liberal Party, I am looking to expand our Party’s appeal by working tirelessly to gain the trust of more Manitobans and show them that there is a real alternative to the status quo. Only the Manitoba Liberal Party can offer Manitobans a better third option.
In Canada – despite the vast participation of South Asians in Canadian electoral politics, Ujal Dusanji remains the long Premier of East Asian heritage. Why do you think that is?
I recognize this fact, but I don’t dwell on the past. In our own province we have never had a visible minority or a woman as Premier, so there is potential for a lot of firsts with my candidacy. My campaign is focused on the future and being the change we want to see. It is important that our political sphere is a good representation of our province’s population. That means having more women in politics and it means having a Party that can better represent the different demographics of our province.
As for your question, all I can say is that more people need to step up and take the initiative. It’s easy to look at statistics and ask why, but it takes confidence and conviction to take that next step to challenge the status quo.
Who are some of your public heroes you would like to emulate and why?
Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi is the first to come to mind. I am struck by how dignified he is and how genuinely concerned he is with the needs of his constituents. It is that genuine motivation that I relate to, because I feel that I have the same motives. I have been honest with people that I am not a seasoned politician and I am also not an ideologue. I am running because I think Manitobans deserve someone who is focused on their needs, rather than a political agenda. Nenshi does not get into divisive politics and I admire that about him.
I also admire Senator Maria Chaput, whom I have had the honour to speak with during my leadership campaign. Senator Chaput is a local champion for fighting poverty and speaking up for the francophone community and I was honoured to receive her endorsement. She is one of those women who have led the way for me and I have learned a lot from her through this process
When you look at Manitoba politics — the NDP (now) and the Conservatives (in the past) seem to dominate provincial politics. Why do you think that is and how do you intend to make the Manitoba Liberal party an alternative to the two more traditional parties?
While the NDP has their base and the Conservatives have their own base, the rest of Manitobans have largely been left out. Come election time, most of them feel the need to vote for the lesser of two evils. For this reason, both the NDP and Conservatives take many Manitobans for granted.
I want to engage those Manitobans as well as former supporters of any other party. We are in a unique position where many NDP voters are now feeling slighted by the government and many progressive conservatives see a PC Party that has become much less progressive. With a strong female leader, I know the Manitoba Liberal Party can bring something different to the province.
Politically, we are the truly balanced option — coming up with solutions to both the fiscal and social problems plaguing our province. Demographically, I am different, but also politically I want to work with Manitobans to promote real fact-based solutions to the many social and fiscal issues we face.