The former head of BC’s Human Rights Commission has once more entered the political fray, this time seeking election to Coquitlam city council in the Nov 19 municipal election.
As an eight-year resident of Coquitlam, Mary-Woo Sims says she has become worried about the seemingly uncontrolled growth of the city at the expense of its livability.
“The issues I think we need to tackle are affordability in housing and city services, transportation, environmental sustainability and community safety,” she says.
The city’s unmanaged growth “is taking away the forests and natural beauty that has attracted me and many others to come and live in this area,” she continues. “There’s a lot of people very concerned about the pace of development. There’s got to be sustainable development.”
Sims has a long record of service within governments of all levels. She has championed equality for women and minority groups and currently works as a consultant to organizations on issues around human rights, equality and diversity management.
“My expertise is in helping organizations and governments meet the needs of diverse populations, and I think that experience will serve me very well in our growing community,” she says.
Sims says she helped negotiate a landmark settlement with the City of Coquitlam that established its gender equity program, and worked with the Coquitlam School District to develop its anti-harassment policy.
It remains important that service providers such as government work to ensure they remain inclusive, she says.
As for Coquitlam’s handling of queer issues, she says she’s not aware of any problems for the city’s queer employees. “I certainly haven’t heard of fear of city employees coming out or that there’s rampant discrimination or harassment.”
But, she says, city officials are open to suggestions and have encouraged her to speak up if she sees the need for change. “They do want to move on and be progressive on these issues,” she says.
Sims is also concerned about the provincial government’s decision to finally close Coquitlam’s Riverview Hospital.
“What are they going to do, how are they going to deal with the people that are going to be leaving that facility?” she asks. “Are they going to go to other facilities or are they going to dump them out on the streets?”
This is not the first time Sims has entered the political arena.
Prior to the last federal election, she unsuccessfully challenged former MP Ian Waddell for the NDP nomination in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding currently held by federal Industry Minister David Emerson.
“I had a lot of encouragement from a lot of people not to give up on politics completely,” she says. “People thought that I had something unique and interesting to bring to the world of politics given my experience and my background.”
With four council seats not being challenged by incumbents, Sims thinks her chances of being elected look good.
“It’s better than the lottery odds,” she jokes.