Today, Nov 26th, 2020 the BC Govenment announced its Cabinet. Part of that annoucement included the welcome announcement of a new Parlimentary Secretary of Community Development and Non-Profits. Niki Sharma, a rookie MLA but very experienced board member — including many years on the board of Vancity Credit Union – has been appointed to the role within the Ministry of Social Services and Poverty Reduction.
Although Vantage Point has been advocating for a full Ministry dedicated to the sector (such as the 90s-era Ministry of Community, Co-ops, and the Voluntary Sector), we are happy to see a clear and leader to support meaningful partnerships with our sector.
What will it mean to have a ‘home for the sector’ in the BC Cabinet? What is the opportunity this new Parlimentary Secretary role presents?
As we know, not-for-profits have stepped into pandemic response in the past nine months in remarkable and creative ways to meet community needs. Many have adjusted our operating models and funding allocations to be able to respond to emerging priorities.
And those needs grow daily as we find ourselves in the second wave of COVID-19.
But while the pandemic creates greater need than ever for the services of the charitable and not-for-profit sector, it also threatens our future. Fundraising revenue has fallen sharply, and over twenty-five percent of BC’s not-for-profits are now in danger of closing their doors, threatening not just the vital work of those organizations, but also the jobs of 86,000 British Columbians employed in this sector. Seventy-four per cent of workers in this sector are women, a demographic already hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
Like those facing the public sector and the private sector, the challenges facing the “third sector” and its important work are urgent and complex. Unlike the public and the private sector, or other major economic sectors such as tourism, health, and forestry, there has been no central place in government for BC’s charitable and not-for-profit sector. A home for the sector in government is the way to ensure our critical community contributions have the right coordination, investment, and connections to unleash the potential of our hard work.
A Parliamentary Secretary does not sit at the Cabinet table, that is the role of the Minster of Social Services and Poverty Reduction – longtime MLA and former social worker Nicolas Simons. But Parliamentary Secretaries and their Minister can build great systems together. Mitzi Dean was Parliamentary Secretary on Gender Based Analysis in the Ministry of Finance and was able to accomplish a great deal because of the positive and active relationship between her and the Honourable Carole James. We will look for that same level of mutual support between the Honourable Simons and Ms Sharma.
We will look to the mandate letters now – the express direction the Premier gives to each Minister – to see if the focus will be able to build resilency in the sector and identify opportunities for growth is a critical part of the pandemic recovery. By taking a coordinated approach to marshalling the considerable resources of our sector, the Parlimentary Secretary and the Minister maybe be able to deliver several new benefits such as the ability to:
- Set and advance common goals for public wellbeing
- Leverage donor dollars and private funding through partnerships
- Build government capacity to understand and address the unique needs of not-for-profit organizations and the opportunities to work together
- Aggregate information and support necessary innovation, capacity, and impact of not-for-profit organizations
- Mobilize volunteers in every corner of the province, providing the equivalent of 146,000 full-time positions
- Foster new partnerships to build community infrastructure and bridge the digital divide
- Reach into cultural and linguistic communities to provide essential supports
- Advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in communities around the province
- Seed charities and not-for-profits as key enablers of green technology and sustainability
- Update rules and streamline regulatory obstacles to success
The challenges facing our province today demand new solutions and fresh ideas. Charities and not-for-profits are proven innovators, fluent in collaboration with an ability to attract investment from outside government. We hope to see greater alignment with government planning and priorities to leverage these assets for the common good. This new role will help ensure our sector meets its potential to improve economic, social, and environmental outcomes for all British Columbians.
We applaud this move on the part of the government. Vantage Point looks forward to working with Parlimentary Secretary Sharma to amplify the breadth, innovation, and resilience of our wonderful sector.
As Executive Director, Alison Brewin is responsible for executing the Vantage Point’s mission and vision. Alison graduated with a Law Degree from the University of Victoria in 1991 and was called to the Bar in 1992. Throughout the 1990s, she worked in non-profit management, as political assistant…
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