Premier John Horgan needs to tread carefully in wake of the Jinny Sims resignation from cabinet

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The departure of Jinny Sims from the NDP cabinet has potential to create some headaches for Premier John Horgan. 

      First of all, Sims represents the swing seat of Surrey-Panorama, which the NDP will want to hold in the next provincial election.

      Secondly, she was one of only two NDP ministers of South Asian ancestry.

      The other is Labour Minister Harry Bains, who might be ready to cruise into retirement after his fourth term in office ends.

      Thirdly, Sims was one of only three ministers from Surrey in a cabinet that's already too Vancouvercentric. Six cabinet ministers represent Vancouver constituencies. 

      Fourthly, Horgan crafted a gender-balanced cabinet of 11 men and 11 women—though that's probably the least of his concerns.

      He has other women in caucus who could be moved into cabinet to fill Sims's spot should she be deemed ineligible to return.

      Sims resigned late Friday (October 4) as minister of citizens' services in response to an unspecified RCMP investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

      Adding to the premier's concerns is the rising tide of anger against his government within the South Asian community.

      It's mainly over an independent tribunal, the Passenger Transportation Board, granting ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft no limits on their fleet sizes.

      The Vancouver Taxi Association has sought judicial review of that decision even as Sims has tried to stay on good terms with the industry.

      Meanwhile, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena has expressed concern about the Passenger Transportation Board decision. But that's small comfort to taxi licence owners, most of whom are in the South Asian community, who see the value of their investments shrivelling.

      It's still too early to assess the political magnitude of the Sims cabinet resignation.

      It's possible that the police investigation won't turn up anything and the special prosecutor, Richard Peck, won't lay any charges.

      But for now, it's giving B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson an opportunity to slam the NDP in the media for shoddy ethics.

      Premier needs to focus on Surrey

      If Horgan has been paying attention to Surrey politics, he will realize that Sims has been a bit of a polarizing figure within the city's South Asian community.

      That's because of her long-standing relationship with the Indian consulate.

      The perception that she's on very good terms with Indian diplomats in Vancouver didn't help her when she tried for a second term as a federal MP in 2015.

      That year, she was trounced by Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal in Surrey-Newton, who was perceived to be more critical of the Indian government.

      In fact, most Surrey NDP MLAs have failed to publicly acknowledge the South Asian community's deep concerns over growing attacks on minorities in India since Narendra Modi's right-wing government was elected in 2014. (For what it's worth, Dhaliwal has also remained fairly quiet.)

      This has been reflected in the B.C. NDP government's continued silence over the Indian government's crackdown in Kashmir, even as federal and Alberta New Democrats have spoken out.

      Sims has been viewed by some as one of India's closest friends in the NDP cabinet.

      So her departure actually presents an opportunity for Horgan to reset this situation to help save his own political hide.

      Of course, any serious rethink would require a level of curiosity that goes beyond simply asking the white eggheads in cabinet or the leadership of the Vancouver-based Khalsa Diwan Society for their opinions.

      It would necessitate actually going out into the trenches of Surrey and listening to what immigrant voters have to say.

      It's hard work, but necessary work, if the NDP doesn't want to blow the next election.

      The party's lack of sophistication in this area likely contributed to NDP candidate Aman Singh's narrow loss in 2017 to Jas Johal in Richmond-Queensborough. The NDP campaign simply didn't appreciate how vulnerable Johal was, and therefore didn't focus nearly enough attention or resources on taking that seat.

      On the flip side, Horgan worked masterfully with the Persian community, helping the NDP win one of the two Coquitlam seats as well as North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

      While it's true that the B.C. Liberals have been far more dismal practitioners of diaspora politics in recent times, the NDP can't afford to be too complacent.

      This is especially so when provincial elections can be won or lost in Surrey, which is B.C.'s second largest city.