Former Surrey Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal dashed out of his own press conference Friday afternoon - with cameramen chasing him out to the parking lot.
This was after reporters peppered him with questions about when he first found out charges had been laid against him and his wife under the Income Tax Act, and when he told the B.C. Liberal party.
Dhaliwal had called the press conference to announce he was dropping out as the BC Liberals' MLA candidate for Surrey-Panorama Ridge in the coming provincial election. He said the past few days had been "extremely difficult" for himself and his family, after news of the charges broke on Thursday.
"I want to make sure I take care of the outstanding matters that are in front of the courts," he said. Dhaliwal noted that people who seek public office have to be committed to the highest standards of behavior. As an MP, he said, "I lived those principles."
He said he didn't want this matter to be a distraction for the governing Liberal party as it heads into the May 14 election. Asked if the party brass pushed him to quit, he replied "absolutely not. It's my decision, and my family's decision, and that's what I'm making."
The press conference started to go sideways for Dhaliwal after one reporter bluntly asked him how a former MP, who has run a company, and been an MLA candidate for the BC Liberals, could end up in "this holy mess."
"We are all human beings," a flustered Dhaliwal replied. "I tell you right now, I think people have to be brave and I'm brave enough, my family's brave enough to come out here today to be accountable to the people and to the media, and that's why I'm standing here in front of you, not shirking away from my responsibility."
Dhaliwal said he wasn't aware of the charges until after he was acclaimed candidate. A party press released dated Oct. 31, 2012, said he'd been acclaimed candidate.
Dhaliwal said the charges arise from difficulty obtaining information from other sources, but didn't elaborate on that.
"There's no tax evasion, just income tax filing," he said
Friday's press conference was at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall in Newton, where less than a week earlier Dhaliwal and Premier Christy Clark had glad-handed with a crowd of nearly 800 of Dhaliwal's supporters during his $125-a-plate campaign fundraiser.
The BC Liberal Party, at Clark's direction, sent out a press release Friday morning that Dhaliwal's candidacy was under review by a committee bearing the unwieldy title of Candidate Approval Subcommittee of the Provincial Election Readiness Committee. Sam Oliphant, a spokesman for the party, wouldn't discuss who's on the committee or when the review was expected to conclude. "We don't release that information," he said. The party's press release stated that Dhaliwal disclosed his "legal situation" to party officials on Wednesday.
Several hours before press conference, Dhaliwal's campaign manager Al Payne told the Now that the beleaguered politician was "in good spirits."
Dhaliwal told the Now last Thursday that he didn't know he was facing six charges under the Income Tax Act when the B.C. Liberal Party chose him to be its candidate for Surrey-Panorama in the coming provincial election.
The former Liberal MP for Newton-North Delta and his wife, Roni, have been charged with failing to comply with the Income Tax Act in connection with Genko Consultants Inc., of which Sukh is president and Roni is the secretary.
Sukh faces six charges, and Roni, 14.
"There's nothing sneaky," Dhaliwal said. "I'm taking responsibility. I'm not hiding anything. I'm working to resolve this matter through proper channels."
Dhaliwal said his personal income taxes are up to date and Genko is one of three companies he's involved with.
"I had little to do with the day-to-day operations," he told the Now.
Genko is a holding company connected with buying and selling properties.
Payne said that although Dhaliwal's candidacy happened after the charges were sworn, "he didn't even know about it until 30 days after the charges were sworn."
Dhaliwal was the Liberal MP for Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011, when the NDP's Jinny Sims defeated him. His wife Roni is a Surrey bylaws officer.