Deepak Obhrai

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Deepak Obhrai

Official Opposition Critic for International Development
In office
November 20, 2015 – July 12, 2016
LeaderRona Ambrose
Preceded byHélène Laverdière
Succeeded byDean Allison
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary Forest Lawn
Calgary East (1997 - 2015)
Assumed office
June 2, 1997
Preceded byRiding created
Personal details
Born (1950-07-05) July 5, 1950 (age 68)
Oldeani, Tanzania
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Neena Obhrai
ResidenceCalgary, Alberta, Canada

Deepak Obhrai PC MP (born July 5, 1950) is a Tanzania-born Canadian politician, representing the riding of Calgary Forest Lawn for the Conservative Party of Canada. He formerly served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[1] He is currently the longest continuously-serving Conservative MP.[2] He ran in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election, but was defeated in the first round of voting.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Obhrai was born on July 5, 1950 in Oldeani, Tanganyika, now Tanzania, to a Punjabi family.[4][5] His father died when Obhrai was six, so he was raised by his mother, who worked at a bank. Obhrai went to primary school in Moshi, a town near Mount Kilimanjaro, and went to high school in Arusha before transferring to the prestigious Daly College in Indore, India. He moved to the United Kingdom and trained as an air traffic controller. Disillusioned by discrimination he faced in Britain, he returned to Tanzania to work. In 1976, Obhrai was on duty at a nearby Tanzanian airport when the Entebbe raid took place in neighbouring Uganda.[6]

Obhrai immigrated to Canada in 1977 with his wife Neena, whom he had married in 1971, and his daughter Priti.[5][6] He originally wanted to immigrate to Montreal, but decided to avoid Quebec and go to Calgary instead because of the recent election of René Lévesque's secessionist Parti Québécois. Obhrai retrained as an accountant in Calgary and got a job with the municipal government. With his wife, he established a dry cleaning business that expanded to three stores.[6]

In the 1990s Obhrai became more involved in Calgary community life, serving as the president of the India-Canada Association of Calgary, the Monterey Park Community Association, and the Hindu Society of Calgary. He also was the vice-president responsible for Alberta in the National Indo-Canadian Council.[6]

Municipal and provincial politics[edit]

In 1993, Obhrai lost a race for an alderman position on Calgary's city council. He launched a failed bid for the Progressive Conservative nomination for a provincial byelection in Calgary–McCall in 1995, and for Calgary–Montrose in 1996.[6]

Federal politics[edit]

Obhrai's successful bid for the Reform Party of Canada nomination in the 1997 federal election was initially obstructed by the local riding association, prompting officials from the office of the party leader, Preston Manning, to intervene.[6] He won the nomination and the riding, and was re-elected when the Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance in 2000. In 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2015 he was elected as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He was also one of four Alliance MPs who agreed to sit with the Progressive Conservative caucus after the December 9, 2003 creation of the merged Conservative Party. The Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parliamentary caucuses were not officially merged until a few weeks later.

As an opposition member he served as the Opposition critic for International Cooperation, Multiculturalism, International Trade and of CIDA.

In February 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Obhrai as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.[4] In March 2008, he was given the additional responsibility of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, a role he held until November 2008; he would hold the role again from November 2010 to January 2011.[4]

During the 2011 Canadian federal election, Obhrai chose not to appear in an all-candidates debate in his riding, citing that his time was better spent talking with constituents. He also said that he "does not wish to debate a Liberal from Toronto," a reference to Calgary East Liberal candidate Josipa Petrunic, who despite her employment by the University of Toronto, was born and raised in Calgary, which was also where she conducted her research.[7][8]

Following his victory in the 2011 election, he discovered that as a result of Gurbax Singh Malhi's defeat in Bramalea—Gore—Malton, he was now the longest serving remaining member of parliament who was of South Asian and/or African ancestry.[9] Obhrai penned a letter to the editor to the Calgary Herald and to his supporters saying that: "In my birth country, Tanzania, I would henceforth be referred to by the respectful title of Mzee. In South Asia, I would receive the title of Pradhaan. This means I have now reached the ranks of respected elders."[9][10]

On September 19, 2013, Obhrai's role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs was augmented when his role was expanded to include responsibility for international human rights.[4] He was appointed to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada by Governor General of Canada David Johnston on the advice of Stephen Harper.[11]

In September 2014, Obhrai received the Pride of India Award from the Indo-American Friends Group of Washington DC and the Indo-American Business Chamber in a dinner ceremony held on Capitol Hill for his contributions towards strengthening Canada's political, social and cultural relations with India and for his role in increasing Indian diaspora participation in pluralistic political activity.[12]

Obhrai is the longest-serving Conservative MP in Canada's 42nd Parliament.[2] Obhrai served as the International Development Critic in the Shadow Cabinet of Rona Ambrose,[13] before resigning from the Shadow Cabinet to seek the Conservative Party leadership.

Conservative leadership campaign[edit]

Obhrai ran in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election.[3][6] The focus of his campaign was promoting Conservative outreach to immigrant communities and opposing proposals by fellow leadership candidate Kellie Leitch to screen immigrants for Canadian values.[6] Having received 0.41% of the vote on the first ballot, Deepak Obhrai was eliminated after the first round.[14]

Post Leadership Run[edit]

Obhrai did not return to Shadow Cabinet under new Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.[15]

In December 2017, it was reported that Obhrai was being challenged for the Conservative nomination in Calgary Forest Lawn for the next election by former Calgary-East MLA Moe Amery.[16]

Electoral results[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2015: Calgary Forest Lawn
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Deepak Obhrai 19,694 47.98 –15.37
Liberal Cam Stewart 14,762 35.96 +18.50
New Democratic Adbou Souraya 4,006 9.76 –3.39
Green Judson Hansell 1,229 2.99 –2.31
Libertarian Matt Badura 832 2.03
Communist Jason Devine 390 0.95
Democratic Advancement Max Veress 134 0.33
Total valid votes/Expense limit 41,047 100.00   $206,437.77
Total rejected ballots 345 0.83
Turnout 41,392 55.47
Eligible voters 74,620
Conservative hold Swing –16.93
Source: Elections Canada[17][18]

Canadian federal election, 2011: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Deepak Obhrai 23,372 67.43% +0.96%
New Democratic Al Brown 4,894 14.12% +2.37%
Liberal Josipa Petrunic 4,102 11.83% +1.68%
Green Scott Milton 2,047 5.91% -4.70%
Communist Jason Devine 246 0.71% -0.30%
Total valid votes/Expense limit 34,661 100.00%
Total rejected ballots
Turnout  %

Canadian federal election, 2008: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Deepak Obhrai 21,311 66.47% -0.63% $77,330
New Democratic Ian Vaughan 3,768 11.75% +0.88% $831
Green Nathan Coates 3,403 10.61% +3.20% $2,722
Liberal Bernie Kennedy 3,255 10.15% -2.95% $6,934
Communist Jason Devine 323 1.01% +0.41% $417
Total valid votes/Expense limit 32,060 100.00% $83,826
Total rejected ballots
Turnout  %
Conservative hold Swing -0.8

Canadian federal election, 2006: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Deepak Obhrai 26,766 67.10% +5.99% $79,928
Liberal Dobie To 5,410 13.56% -7.71%
New Democratic Patrick Arnell 4,338 10.87% +1.01% $2,762
Green J. Mark Taylor 2,955 7.41% +0.36% $1,910
Communist Jason Devine 239 0.60% -0.08% $279
Canadian Action Ghazanfar Khan 183 0.46% $99
Total valid votes 39,890 100.00%
Total rejected ballots 181 0.45%
Turnout 40,071 50.45%

Canadian federal election, 2004: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Deepak Obhrai 21,897 61.11% -9.61% $55,864
Liberal James Maxim 7,621 21.27% +0.81% $50,725
New Democratic Elizabeth Thomas 3,535 9.86% +5.55% $5,211
Green Dean Kenneth Christie 2,529 7.05% $1,526
Communist Jason Devine 245 0.68% +0.14% $750
Total valid votes 35,827 100.00%
Total rejected ballots 207 0.57%
Turnout 36,034 47.79%

Note: Conservative vote is compared to total of Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative vote in 2000.

Canadian federal election, 2000: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Alliance Deepak Obhrai 18,141 54.25% +9.27% $50,082
Liberal Doug Perras 6,843 20.46% -2.34% $13,817
Progressive Conservative Roger Richard 5,510 16.47% -8.15% $26,576
New Democratic Kaie Jones 1,444 4.31% -2.18% $4,528
Marijuana Grant Adam Krieger 1,222 3.65% $1,331
Communist Jason Devine 152 0.54% $415
Natural Law Neeraj Varma 124 0.37% -0.73%
Total valid votes 33,436 100.00%
Total rejected ballots 118 0.35%
Turnout 33,554 48.19%

Note: Canadian Alliance vote is compared to Reform vote in 1997.

Canadian federal election, 1997: Calgary East
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Reform Deepak Obhrai 13,348 44.98% $47,624
Progressive Conservative Roger Richard 7,306 24.62% -34.23% $40,312
Liberal Nagah Hage 6,766 22.80% -0.77% $20,633
New Democratic Kaie Jones 1,926 6.49% -7.19% $6,993
Natural Law Santo Esposito 329 1.10%
Total valid votes 29,675 100.00%
Total rejected ballots 175 0.59%
Turnout 29,850 47.88%


  1. ^ Canada, Global Affairs; Canada, Affaires mondiales (26 June 2013). "Global Affairs Canada".
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b "Conservative leadership candidates ramp up personal attacks during French-only debate". National Post. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  4. ^ a b c d "OBHRAI, The Hon. Deepak, P.C." Library of Parliament. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Naumetz, Tim (November 10, 2016). "Obhrai received emails telling him to 'leave Canada' after Leitch released immigration plan". The Hill Times. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Raj, Althia (February 11, 2017). "Deepak Obhrai, Tory Party Elder, Seeks Leadership And A Little Respect". The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  7. ^ Fekete, Jason (April 20, 2011). "Obhrai criticized as Tory incumbents avoid Calgary election debates". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on April 10, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  8. ^ John Ibbitson; Daniel Leblanc (April 7, 2011). "Cone of silence tightens on Tories". The Globe and Mail.
  9. ^ a b Taber, Jane (May 19, 2011). "Deepak Obhrai, the peacock of South Asian MPs". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Obhrai, Deepak (May 19, 2011). "Deepak the elder". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Deepak Obhrai awarded Pride of India Award for fostering Indo-Canadian relations | Indo-Canadian Voice Newspaper". Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "October 19, 2015 Election Results — Calgary Forest Lawn (Validated results)". Elections Canada. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  18. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived August 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]