Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai. (Now-Leader file photo)

UPDATE: Embattled Surrey MP Sarai steps down as caucus chair

Fellow MP says chair position is about ‘glory,’ not extra money

Surrey Liberal MP Randeep Sarai’s job got a little lighter after he announced on Twitter on Tuesday evening that he is stepping down as chair of the Liberal Pacific Caucus.

This, following the political maelstrom the Trudeau government has found itself in over the prime minister’s recent trip to India.

Sarai held the caucus position since Oct. 28, 2016.

“I want to again apologize for my role in recent unfortunate events. Moving forward, I will be exercising better judgment,” Sarai tweeted. “As I don’t want to distract from the good work of the Pacific Caucus, I will be stepping down as caucus chair.”

The MP for Surrey Centre has not returned phone calls or emails from the Now-leader seeking further comment on why a Sikh extremist found guilty of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to attend a reception with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Mumbai and New Delhi.

OUR VIEW: Surrey MP Sarai owes us some answers

See also: Surrey MP invites convicted terrorist to Trudeau reception in India

See also: Atwal says he bowed out of event to save Trudeau embarrassment

John Aldag, Liberal MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, returned phone calls seeking clarity on what the chair of the Pacific Caucus does and when that vacated position will be filled.

What does the MP holding that position actually do?

“It’s very much a kind of an administrative coordinator position,” Aldag explained.

B.C.’s 18 Liberal MPs meet regularly to discuss “issues that are of common interest for B.C. that we need to take to our national caucus,” he said. They also hear from delegations.

Is it a paid position?

“Caucus chair, anything to do with caucus is all for the glory,” Aldag noted. “Not a penny of extra money. I have to say at least I think that’s the case; I wasn’t under the impression there was any money involved with it but I’m sure it’s a voluntary thing.”

Aldag said the new caucus chair will likely be selected in the third week of March.

“We have a process; we meet every Wednesday when we’re in Ottawa so there’s a nomination process and then I think the vote will be, the selection will be the first Wednesday that we’re back, which is the third week of March,” he said.

Sarai has been in the spotlight after inviting a convicted criminal, Jaspal Atwal, to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reception in India.

Jaspal Atwal was photographed posing with the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, as well as Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Sonia Sidhu, Liberal MP for Brampton South.

Prior to stepping down as caucus chair, Sarai released a statement about the incident, which has proven to be a public relations disaster for the Trudeau government.

“As you know, an individual planning on attending tonight’s reception had his invitation rescinded. Let me be clear – this person should never have been invited in the first place,” Sarai’s statement reads. “I alone facilitated his request to attend this important event. I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions.

“I apologize without reservation for my role in this situation, which has become an unfortunate distraction from the work, achievements, objectives of the Prime Minister and his team during this historic trip to India,” Sarai added.

Trudeau didn’t name Atwal in a press conference in India but said “the individual in question never should have received an invitation and as soon as we found out we rescinded the invitation immediately.

“The member of parliament who included this individual has and will assume full responsibility for his action.”

See also: Former B.C. premier decries “religionization” of Canadian politics



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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