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HomeBusinessSurrey mayoral hopeful Sims imports campaign manager from Calgary

Surrey mayoral hopeful Sims imports campaign manager from Calgary

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Bob Mackin

It is now a three-way race for Mayor of Surrey. 

Jinny Sims, the NDP MLA in Surrey-Panorama, launched her campaign to defeat Mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition on June 8 under the banner of Surrey Forward. She joins Coun. Brenda Locke, who declared her candidacy with the new Surrey Connect party in July 2021.

Stephen Carter (Twitter)

“Surrey city hall is broken,” Sims said in a prepared statement. “There are two factions at city hall fighting with each other instead of fighting for the people of Surrey.”

With just over four months until election day, Sims is playing catch-up, so she imported the strategist behind the last two mayors of Calgary to manage her campaign. 

Stephen Carter helped Naheed Nenshi get elected in 2010 and his successor Jyoti Gondek last fall. Carter was Gondek’s chief of staff until February when he was fired mysteriously with a $104,000 severance. 

“I was dismissed without cause,” Carter said. “I think I’ve spoken to the Calgary media quite extensively.”

Carter also managed Alison Redford’s 2011 Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership campaign and 2012 provincial election win. He became her chief of staff, but left that job after six months with a $130,000 severance. 

Asked if he would follow Sims into a Surrey city hall job if she wins on Oct. 15, Carter said his agreement with Sims is for the campaign only. “That’s what the deals that I always sign are,” he said.

The Punjab-born, England-raised Sims is a former high school teacher who parlayed her profile as president of the B.C. Teachers Federation into a successful run for the NDP in the federal Newton-North Delta riding in 2011. She lost in 2015 to Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal, but went provincial and won Surrey-Panorama for the B.C. NDP in 2017. 

Jinny Sims (Surrey Forward)

Sims resigned as Minister of Citizens’ Services in October 2019 over allegations she hid email and wrote visa support letters for campaign supporters. Special prosecutor Richard Peck did not recommend charges against Sims, who had been in charge of the government’s procurement and freedom of information departments. Peck, coincidentally, is now the defence lawyer in McCallum’s public mischief case, which is scheduled for trial two weeks after election day. 

Sims was re-elected in 2020, but not reappointed to cabinet.

“The relationship between Sims and [Premier John Horgan] has been super strong throughout all of this,” Carter said. “Both of them have tremendous respect for one another. I don’t think that her not being in cabinet was any reflection of those allegations.” 

Carter also worked on Mike Hurley’s 2018 defeat of longtime Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. Earlier that year, he managed Mike de Jong’s second unsuccessful campaign for the BC Liberal leadership. 

He said Surrey voters are looking for a more predictable and fair mayor than McCallum, and Sims will also stress affordability.  

As for the timing of Sims’s campaign launch, Carter said more than 50% of a candidate’s funds are generally raised and spent in the last four-to-six weeks of a campaign, “right when people are expecting to see a lot.”

“Jinny Sims also has name recognition, whereas Jyoti Gondek, her name recognition was less than 10%,” Carter said. “When we started, we had a totally different task.”

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