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Surrey MLA Brar criticized for praising Cuba

Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar (left), pictured in Vancouver
Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar (left), pictured in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside last winter while spending a month on welfare; BC Liberal MLA Bill Bennett (right).
— image credit: File

Surrey NDP MLA Jagrup Brar's appreciative words for Cuba after vacationing there has sparked a BC Liberal attack accusing him of being too cozy with communism.

Outspoken Liberal MLA Bill Bennett, a top lieutenant of Premier Christy Clark, said Brar's comments may have given "a glimpse into the secret desires of the B.C. NDP" to emulate Cuba if they form government.

In a Punjabi-language interview on Radio India after his vacation, Brar praised Cuba's success in virtually eliminating the gap between rich and poor and providing excellent universal access to free health care and education.

"They have distributed their resources in a more fair way than us," the Surrey-Fleetwood MLA said, adding Cuba doesn't have the "extreme poverty" that exists in Canada, the U.S. or other countries "that fly the banner of wealth."

Bennett called it a wake-up call and said NDP leader Adrian Dix should distance himself from Brar.

"I for one have zero interest in living in a state where individual effort and ambition is discouraged, where censorship is rampant and freedom of speech is non-existent," Bennett said, adding Brar should also apologize to Cuban-Canadians.

Brar was not available to respond, but NDP spokesman Shane Simpson dismissed Bennett's criticism as "red-baiting" by the Liberals.

"It went from silly to absurd to desperate," he said of Bennett's attack.

Simpson did agree that Cuba, while "very challenged" by issues including the U.S. trade boycott, has "pretty good achievements" in health and education but added B.C. has to deal with issues of inequality in its own way.

Brar spent a month on welfare last winter to gain a better understanding of life below the poverty line.

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