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Politics

Getting to bottom of NDP minister’s resignation a top priority: BC Liberal leader

Keith Baldrey prepares us for what to look for in Monday's English language federal leaders debate, and also previews expected questions in the B.C. legislature Jinny Sims's resignation from cabinet.

B.C.’s opposition leader says his party plans to hold the provincial NDP government’s feet to the fire this week after one of its ministers resigned amid an RCMP investigation.

Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims stepped down from cabinet Friday after learning a special prosecutor had been assigned to the probe.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said he plans to ask Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby at Monday’s question period what prompted the investigation and why it took until now for Sims to step down.

MLA Jinny Sims resigns from cabinet after RCMP investigation announced
MLA Jinny Sims resigns from cabinet after RCMP investigation announced

“We want to know who else is being investigated, what have the NDP done about this — because we raised it six months ago — and did they protect the evidence or did they let it get wiped out?” Wilkinson said Sunday.

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Vancouver lawyer Robert Peck has been appointed as the special prosecutor to assist the RCMP investigation into Sims “and others,” according to the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS).

It’s not yet clear what the allegations are against Sims. In a statement released Friday, the MLA said even she has not been given the details behind the investigation.

While Wilkinson has also said the root of the RCMP investigation is unknown, he suggested it may be related to allegations against Sims that were brought to light in May.

READ MORE: B.C. citizens’ services minister Jinny Sims resigns from cabinet amid RCMP investigation

Sims was accused of violating Freedom of Information laws — which the Ministry of Citizens’ Services oversees — by telling staff to communicate through personal channels rather than official email addresses.

The information and privacy commissioner declined to investigate the claims, saying the law doesn’t “explicitly prohibit” the use of personal emails.

A former employee in Sims’ Surrey-Panorama constituency office also alleged Sims wrote support letters for travel visas to 10 Pakistani individuals in exchange for promised campaign donations.

FOI minister accused of circumventing FOI laws
FOI minister accused of circumventing FOI laws

The office of Cloverdale-Langley MP John Aldag, which received the travel visa letters, later confirmed none of the subjects were identified as being on any U.S. security watchlist, which the former employee had also alleged.

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The news prompted the B.C. Liberals to call for Sims’ resignation, but Horgan defended the then-minister.

Sims denied all the allegations, saying Friday there “was no credibility” to them.

Wilkinson said Friday the B.C. Liberals handed evidence related to the earlier allegations to the RCMP.

The opposition leader said Sunday he wants to ensure Eby raised concerns about Sims as soon as possible, accusing him of keeping the news internal.

“We need total disclosure from the attorney general of what they’ve done about this over the last six months, because the public are entitled to know whether the attorney general and Jinny Sims are covering this up,” he said.

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“If they’ve been obstructing justice, we need to find out.”

READ MORE: B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer resigns days after releasing audit into legislature expenses

The Ministry of Attorney General did not provide comment on the matter Sunday, referring requests to the BCPS. The BCPS is not commenting further.

Sims is refusing comment until the matter is resolved, citing advice from her legal counsel. She remains the MLA for Surrey-Panorama.

Wilkinson said raising the issue of Sims’ resignation is not about politics, but about the public’s right to information.

“The public are entitled to know why an NDP cabinet minister resigned and what kind of criminal activity is being alleged,” he said. “That’s critical to the public.”