The month of April symbolizes the start of a new year for Sikhs. As Vaisakhi approaches, I’d like to take some time to reflect on my life and appreciate the amazing opportunities I have been blessed to experience. From serving as a teacher, President of the BC Teachers Federation, Member of Parliament to now holding the position of MLA for Surrey-Panorama and the Minister of Citizens’ Services, I have a lot to be thankful for.
My journey to become the MLA for Surrey-Panorama and B.C.’s Minister of Citizens’ Services takes a few hops and skips, spanning three countries, starting in Jullundur District, India where I was born. My family immigrated to England when I was nine years-old and it was here I cultivated my deep belief in lifelong learning. This made a career in education an obvious choice I earned a degree in this field at the University of Manchester. In 1977, my husband and I moved to Nanaimo, following a few years in Quebec, where we’ve raised two children who are now parents themselves.
I have been, and continue to be, an active advocate for high-quality, public education. I was elected President of the Nanaimo District Teachers Union and then served as an executive member and president of the BC Teacher’s Federation. Some of my most memorable times with the BCTF were participating on the Status of Women Committee and as the Director of Professional Development and Social Issues.
My passion to make a difference in people’s lives and help create a province that reflects the values of equality, inclusiveness and shared prosperity led me to politics, and in 2011 I was elected as the NDP Member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta. In 2017, I was elected to the B.C. Legislature and appointed to my currently portfolio, as well as three Cabinet committees, as part of the newly-formed NDP government.
I’m so proud to be a part of Premier Horgan’s team which is putting people first by making life more affordable, improving vital services like healthcare and education, and creating a strong, sustainable economy that produces good-paying jobs in communities across British Columbia. We’re making great progress on important issues that we all care about like human rights, childcare, crime and the environment. We’re working hard so all British Columbians can prosper.
My ministry plays a key role by providing the critical infrastructure that government needs to deliver programs and services for people. We manage the information technology, government purchasing, real estate, BC Services Card and Service BC which support ministries in the work they do on behalf of British Columbians. We also manage access to information, protect privacy and look at other ways to improve people’s interactions with government, whether its in person, over the phone or online.
One of my ministry’s main areas of focus is making sure the close to $7 billion government spends purchasing thousands of different goods and services provides economic, social and environmental benefits for people and communities. We’ve developed a bold strategy and are finding new ways of doing business that make it easier for small and medium-sized companies to work with government.
We’re improving the often expensive, time consuming and cumbersome government procurement processes so companies of all sizes can access opportunities. We know B.C. innovators have the solutions to many public sector challenges so we want to make sure that we’re getting the best products at the best price and solving problems quickly.
My ministry also received a $50 million funding boost to expand the great work we are doing to improve high-speed internet services in smaller communities. Connectivity is essential today for to do business, access education and telehealth services, prepare for and respond during an emergency. We’re focussed on our goal of making sure every rural and Indigenous community can access reliable, affordable broadband service. This historic investment will connect approximately 200 more rural areas, in addition to the over 400 projects we have that are underway or already completed.
I want to wish everyone a very Happy Vaisakhi!
Vaisakhi diyan lakh lakh wadhaiyan!