NDP candidate Ravi Kahlon’s attendance record was put on the block by Liberal supporters, who said Kahlon’s higher-than-normal absences from the Delta parks, recreation and culture commission should worry voters.
Micah Haince, campaign manager for Liberal candidate Scott Hamilton, called the Reporter after candidate profiles were published in the paper’s April 20 edition to discuss Kahlon’s time as a parks commissioner.
In a later meeting, Haince alleged that Kahlon’s term as a parks commissioner was not renewed because of his attendance.
Kahlon responded that he wasn’t renewed because he submitted his application for renewal after the deadline. He said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue on the commission for personal reasons, and decided to renew too late.
Delta staff were unable to confirm the reason Kahlon’s tenure ended before the Reporter’s deadline.
North Delta resident Jim Holt, a volunteer in Hamilton’s campaign, also submitted a comment to the paper via email, saying Kahlon’s attendance should “raise a huge red flag for voters.”
“You’ve got to show up, and to my mind he didn’t show up,” said Holt, an active member of Delta’s recreation and culture scene since 2005. Holt added he felt Kahlon had lost interest in the commission.
In an interview with the Reporter, Kahlon explained he had challenges with attendance as a parks commissioner because his wife had a difficult pregnancy and suffered from postpartum depression after their son was born.
“It’s a personal issue,” he said. “It was important for me to be with her and support her. I don’t have the luxury of having my parents nearby so it fell on us.”
According to parks commission minutes, both Kahlon and Hamilton were absent more often than other councillors and commissioners.
In total, Kahlon was absent without leave 38.7 per cent of his time on the commission, which ran from February 2009 to January 2012.
In the same period, Hamilton, who was on Delta council and acted as vice-chair of the commission, was absent without leave 21.7 per cent of the time. From February 2007, the start of records available on the Corporation of Delta’s open data website, to May 2014, the last time his name was mentioned in the minutes, he was absent without leave 31.1 per cent of the time.
The average for absences without leave was 20.9 per cent from Feb. 2007 to May 2014.
Hamilton explained his absences as the result of conflicting committee meeting schedules or local events. Forty-three-and-a-half per cent of Hamilton’s absences were after his election to the legislature in May 2013.
On June 10, 2013, Delta council voted to put Hamilton on an unpaid leave of absence from his councillor duties until January 2014 to avoid a municipal by-election. This leave included attending committee and commission meetings.
Although the minutes from the June 10, 2013 council meeting stated he intended “to attend Delta Council meetings, committee meetings and public hearings from time to time and as necessary to ensure a quorum,” he was “permitted to be absent from regular council meetings, committee meetings and all other municipal meetings.”
When Hamilton’s leave of absence is considered, his absences go down to 20.4 per cent.
In an interview with the Reporter, Hamilton said he didn’t want to make “a huge deal about it,” and didn’t want to delve too deeply into Kahlon’s absences, but did say that attendance was important.
“When you put yourself forward to do a job like that, you are making a commitment to your community,” he said when asked about why people should care about attendance records. “If you’re not fully committed and you can’t do the time, don’t step up in the first place.”
Kahlon said that if people have doubts about his commitment, they should look at the 12 years he spent training for the Olympics.
As far as his commission absences go: “It’s one of those things, when you have a loved one going through it, it’s not like it’s consistent,” he said. “If something comes up you’ve got to go.”
“I volunteered for the parks and rec commission for free, and I’d do it again,” he said later. “But my loved ones come first.”