“I would like to be remembered as someone who was a passionate advocate for our citizens and for helping people see that embracing our differences and celebrating our diversity will help create a more inclusive and just world,” Jinny Jogindro Sims, BC Minister of Citizens' Services
By R. Paul Dhillon –DESIBUZZCanada Editor-Founder
We recently sat down with BC Citizens’ Services Minister Jinny Sims to talk everything politics and what makes her tick. Here is our exclusive chat with the strong woman who is amusingly referred to by many as the Minister of Everything as her ministry crosses paths with many of the other ministries.
DESIBUZZCanada: Jinny tell us about your long political journey from BC Teachers President and then federal politics, getting elected under the historic official opposition victory under Jack Layton and then entering BC Politics and becoming the Minister of Everything?
JINNY SIMS: My life experiences have brought me into politics. As an activist and teacher my focus has been to build a just and inclusive society. Teaching kids taught me that in order to bring about real change to address poverty, violence, racism, income inequality, et al, I had to engage in policy making. In order to build a more just Canada there is a need to have a voice at the table.
I’ve had a long and interesting time in politics from being elected as BCTF President in 2004, to running in the Federal Election in 2011, and then coming to provincial politics with this recent election in 2017. All of my positions have given me the opportunity to work on what I most enjoy – helping to improve the lives of British Columbians and Canadians. As an MP, I held many interesting portfolios, critic of Employment, Immigration, and International Cooperation respectively. Now, my knowledge base is continuing to grow through the diverse and meaningful work as Minister of Citizens’ Services and as the MLA for Surrey-Panorama.
DB was different then the federal one?
JS: I have always been very passionate about working closely with people in our communities.I was particularly unhappy with the damage done to our public education system and the failure of the BC Liberals to protect and grow decent paying jobs. I see Surrey-Panorama as a unique and quickly growing constituency where there are so many opportunities to make things easier and more affordable for working people – providing better access to the services people count on and creating good paying jobs in our community and across the Province.
DB: NDP under John Horgan and your first term as MLA finally got into government side after a long 16 year pause but only barely with the Green coalition. Tell us how that framework is holding up as you enter the final few months of your first anniversary as government?
We are very happy to work with Andrew Weaver and the Green Party in order to build a strong government for British Columbia. The Confidence and Supply Agreement provides some insight into this arrangement, but it goes beyond that. Both parties campaigned for a government that puts people at the centre of their decision making and we both agree that the Legislature works best when all MLAs work together to advance the public good. Premier Horgan continues to spend time engaging with Andrew Weaver and we will all continue to listen to our colleagues and work together to make the changes we both committed to in the best interest of the people of BC.
DB: Did you play any part in the political maneuvering that took place before the Green decided to go with your party rather than the BC Liberals?
JS:In those early days, Premier Horgan worked closely with Andrew Weaver. My colleagues and I are happy to see collaboration from all sides in order to have a robust and motivated government for focused on the people in our province.
DB: Give us a rundown of what the NDP has accomplished and whether the party is on track to deliver all the promises made during the election campaign?
JS: There are many things that we have already started doing, and there will be much more to come – we are well on our way to delivering on our promises. Some of the items we have accomplished include:
Banning big money from BC Politics; closing the fixed-term lease loophole; cutting MSP premiums in half; starting the process to build a new hospital in Surrey; creating the first Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in North America to tackle the overdose crisis; creating solutions for housing including 160 supportive housing units in Surrey; bringing seismic upgrades to schools to keep our kids safe; eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges; removing tuition fees for all Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning; creating a new transportation supplement for persons with disabilities; waiving tuition for Post-Secondary education for kids in foster care; expanding efforts to tackle gang violence;doing a review into wildfire and flood practices; standing up for BC’s interests on Kinder Morgan; bringing high speed internet to 154 remote coastal and Indigenous communities so they have an opportunity to grow, diversify and compete on the world stage; and continuing to grow our economy locally, nationally, and on a world-scale.
DB: What has been your and your party's biggest contribution in making the lives of British Columbians, especially the lower and middle classes?
JS: Some of the items above are particularly relevant to those with lower and middle incomes. Not only are we helping more people in our province become more educated in order to get good jobs and support themselves and their families, but we have started to build a province-wide poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines.The poverty rate in BC is among the worst in Canada and too many people in our province are struggling to make ends meet, earn a living wage, or find and keep affordable housing. We are also bringing reliable high-speed connectivity to rural and Indigenous communities in BC which is critical in developing their business opportunities, services and community potential.
DB: So far the reaction to the changes implemented like the Toll removal and the announcement of Hospital in Surrey has been winning moves – can your party keep that up until the next election?
JS: Absolutely – this is just the start of many more things to come. After 16 years of a Liberal government, we are left with so many opportunities to improve our neighbourhoods and our province on a whole. I look forward to getting more kids out of portables and into seismically sound schools where they can learn in a positive and safe environment. We have just begun.
DB: You are being called the Minister of Everything under your Minister of Citizens' Services portfolio – give us a sense of what exactly the ministry entails?
JS: I like to say the Ministry of Citizens’ Services is the face and backbone of government and that people are at the heart of everything we do. From the facilitation of high-speed internet across the province to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy, to providing a wide range of both in-person and online services to British Columbians through our 62 Service BC Centres, we deliver the services British Columbians count on.
We are also responsible forthe management of Government Properties and Real Estate services, the BC Procurement Process, BC Online and we provide corporate leadership across government to modernize and manage government’s information technology systems and equipment.
DB: Are you happy with the Portfolio – are there other cabinet posts you would like to tackle – Education for instance since your long service as teacher and then union leader in that profession?
JS: The Ministry of Citizens’ Services is an extremely important ministry which is interlinked and plays a supportive role to all the other ministries. I consider it the backbone of the other ministries
I am very excited to have the opportunity of heading this key Ministry as the scope and diverse nature of the responsibilities make it very challenging and immensely rewarding.
The Ministry of Education is in the very capable hands of Minister Rob Fleming who is doing an excellent job of ensuring our kids are getting a quality education, shifting kids from portables to schools with increased capacity, and announcing funding to build or upgrade more schools.
DB: Give us your take on the current BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson?
JS: We are happy to congratulate Andrew Wilkinson on his election as Liberal Party Leader.As for the future, our focus is to work for British Columbians to make their lives better and more affordable.
DB: You've accomplished a lot in your life – will the provincial political scene be your last in terms of elected public service or do you have further ambitions in politics or other fields?
JS: Who knows what the future has in store for me! At present I am fully committed to working for my constituents and all British Columbians as a member of our dynamic Premier John Horgan’s Team.
DB: You are a strong woman and you have been a role model for many young women who want to enter politics or other fields – what advice do you have for young women in general and those wanting to enter politics in particular?
JS: I would always encourage young women to get involved, just get out there and have your voice heard. This is your time. This NDP government is creating opportunities where you can get involved in your community and bring other women along so that we continue to increase the number of women in politics and in government.
DB: What kind of legacy do you want to be remembered for when it is all said and done?
JS: I would like to be remembered as someone who was a passionate advocate for our citizens and for helping people see that embracing our differences and celebrating our diversity will help create a more inclusive and just world.