Nicholas Simons’ opposition critic responsibilities have taken root in new portfolios.
The Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA was serving with the New Democratic Party’s shadow cabinet in the agriculture portfolio. But late last week, NDP leader John Horgan reshuffled his caucus, assigning Simons critic roles in small business, arts and culture, as well as coastal economic development.
“I really enjoyed working in the agriculture sector,” Simons said. “My relationship in that critic role was intense. I dealt with legislation that elicited a significant amount of debate. I think it was a good experience, a learning experience, and the party showed itself well in the defence of agricultural land.”
That being said, Simons is very excited about this new opportunity.
“Obviously, I love arts and culture,” said Simons, an accomplished musician and arts council past-president. “That’s going to be a pleasure for me to represent folks in that sector. I think the learning curve may not be as steep as it was for me in the agriculture sector.
“At the same time, I think individuals have their own unique concerns and I need to be able to represent their particular concerns. The arts and culture sector has different needs than it might have had five years ago. My job is to meet the players in that area and find out how I can advocate on their behalf as an opposition member of the legislature.”
Simons said he regards his new critic role appointment as an opportunity to continue serving as an advocate. Regardless of his critic portfolio, Simons said as an opposition member, it is his responsibility to take on issues that are brought to him by constituents and it is his job to carry those to government.
His relationships with the ministers in his new critic portfolio — Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business — are good.
“I expect to continue to work in a productive way and for whatever furthers the interest of British Columbians,” Simons said. “Being a critic or in the shadow cabinet is a very important part of our process.”
Simons said he is pleased that Horgan has the confidence in him to fulfill the business and coastal economic development role. He said that small business, especially, is a natural fit for the NDP. Simons knows a number of small business people in this community and said their party affiliation is as mixed as any other sector of the population. He is drawn to the vitality of this demographic.
“I love the fact that our coastal region is full of people with entrepreneurial ideas,” Simons said. “Everybody recognizes the importance of healthy communities for businesses to thrive in. Small business is as much a part of our community as industry, plus the social and cultural sectors.”
Simons anticipates he will soon be meeting with people who are interested in ensuring that coastal economies are evolving and overcoming the challenges that are sometimes put in place by government.
“I hope to find ways of facilitating small businesses’ attempts to make their businesses more viable,” he said.
For example, Simons said he understands the struggles that some people are having with governments and sometimes with provincial regulations. Healthy communities rely on a healthy economy, he added.
“My role is no different than in my role in previous positions, and that is to advocate on behalf of sectors. I need to know what people in the sector are asking for, what they are hoping for, and using whatever influence I have to represent their views.”
© Coast Reporter