CBC News has reported that the MLA for Surrey-Panorama will likely make a significant political announcement on Wednesday (June 8).
According to reporter Kiran Singh, Jinny Sims will declare that she's running for mayor of Surrey with a new party called Surrey Forward.
If so, she will become the second MLA from John Horgan's NDP caucus to decide to run municipally after being kept out of cabinet.
In 2018, Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog won a landslide victory in his city's mayoral race. He subsequently resigned his provincial post, clearing the way for Sheila Malcolmson to win the seat in 2019.
Sims represents Surrey-Panorama, which is not nearly as safe a seat for the NDP. It was held by B.C. Liberal Stephanie Cadieux from 2009 to 2013 and by another B.C. Liberal, Marvin Hunt, from 2013 to 2017.
Sims won handily in 2017 and 2020, capturing more than 50 percent of the votes in each of these campaigns. But with new B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon's deep roots in Surrey, it might not be an NDP slam dunk should there be a by-election.
The B.C. Liberals will likely win the next by-election in Surrey South, which was vacated this summer by Cadieux. So if Sims were to win the mayoral race in Surrey, forcing another by-election, the B.C. Liberals would be able to show momentum if they were to capture Surrey-Panorama.
If that were to happen, it would mark the party's third straight by-election victory since Falcon became leader. He represents Vancouver-Quilchena after winning a by-election there.
Why would Sims prefer being mayor of Surrey over sitting in the NDP caucus?
We'll have to wait for her announcement to hear her response to that question.
Here are some of the questions rattling around in my brain.
1. Is she ticked off that Premier John Horgan did not bring her back into cabinet after she was cleared in a criminal investigation in 2020? At the time, she accused then B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson of launching a smear campaign against her in connection with her constituency work. But despite the lack of any criminal charge, Sims was not brought back. In fact, she wasn't even named as a minister of state or parliamentary secretary. Ouch!
2. Did she feel the sting of racism when Horgan announced his 2020 cabinet, cabinet committees, and list of deputy ministers? Only two caucus members of South Asian ancestry, Harry Bains and Ravi Kahlon, were selected for cabinet. Only one of East Asian ancestry, Anne Kang, was made a full cabinet minister with her own deputy minister. A rookie MLA from a safe seat, New Westminster's Jennifer Whiteside, was put in charge of the education portfolio. Sims—a former MP, former cabinet minister, and former B.C. Teachers' Federation—was put on the backbenches. It probably didn't escape Sims's attention that only two people of colour were named as deputy ministers in the Horgan government in 2020.
3. Is Sims disenchanted with the B.C. government's response to COVID-19? In a column in January, I noted that Horgan has not faced internal dissent since becoming premier in 2017, but suggested that perhaps this could change as a result of his let 'er rip approach to COVID-19. I identified three NDP caucus members to watch as potential dissenters: Sims, Spencer Chandra-Herbert, and David Eby, all for different reasons.
4. Is she upset that the party gave the relatively safe Surrey–Green Timbers seat to Rachna Singh, who had no elected experience when she ran in 2017, and then forced Sims to run in the more challenging constituency of Surrey-Panorama? Does it gall Sims that Singh's star appears to be rising in her role as the parliamentary secretary for antiracism initiatives as her provincial political career languishes?
5. Is Sims simply sick of travelling back to Victoria for sessions of the legislature, where she's expected to obediently vote in favour of whatever the cabinet brings forward?
No doubt, Sims will frame her candidacy very differently—and none of these reasons will be cited when she makes an announcement.
And it's worth noting, as I'm sure she will, that she has a chance to make history by becoming the first woman of South Asian ancestry to be elected mayor of Surrey. That would make her a powerful role model for young women of colour across the province.
Plus, the B.C. NDP might actually like having one of its own as mayor of Surrey as the party gears up for what will likely be a difficult election in 2024.
Who knows? Maybe the premier actually wants Sims to get elected mayor to advance his own political interests. Stranger things have happened in B.C. politics.
But it won't look good on the NDP if Sims wins the mayoralty and then the party loses the provincial by-election in Surrey-Panorama.