After 21 years in public service, Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes confirmed Friday that he won’t run for re-election in May.
“I’m 65 years old. By the time the election comes around I’ll be 66. There is a retirement time, and there are younger people with bright ideas who should come in,” he said.
However, it won’t be all golf games for Hawes after public life. He’s going back to school, he said, to the Justice Institute to become a certified mediator.
“It’s the kind of thing I’ve done all along, with corporations, with family matters. But it won’t be in labour,” he quipped.
Hawes has been the B.C. Liberal MLA for the Mission area for 11 years, in the riding of Maple Ridge-Mission since 2001, then in the newer riding configuration of Abbotsford-Mission since 2009.
Previous to that, Hawes was the mayor of Mission for eight years, and a councillor for one year.
Premier Christy Clark called Hawes a “tireless advocate for his community,” and thanked him for his service.
“Randy’s candour, wit and humour will be greatly missed by staff and all MLAs,” she said.
Hawes spoke up for Mission Memorial Hospital when the health ministry was looking at closing the site, and for B.C. Community Living when families complained it wasn’t filling its mandate.
Hawes never held a cabinet post but was the Minister of State for Mining since June 2009, a role in which he advocated for an aggregate pilot project that would map out gravel extraction areas in the Fraser Valley.
Hawes steps away from the battlefield of politics with a realistic perspective, and with no regrets.
“No one in politics is indispensable. The day you leave politics is the day people forget you. I’m quite comfortable leaving, and I’m certainly not indispensable,” he said.
Looking back over his time as an MLA, Hawes said he is most proud of initiating the Experience the Fraser program along with Langley City councillor Gayle Martin.
He broached the plan to the NDP government in 1996, and it was eventually supported by the B.C. Liberal government in 2003.
Since then, Victoria has invested $3.5 million in the fledgling project that will eventually develop a recreational trail system from Hope to the coast along the Fraser River, with campgrounds, historical sites and aboriginal cultural stops.
“The Fraser River is a beautiful river. It’s part of our history and it should be a tourist destination,” he said.
Among his government’s lowlights was the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax, Hawes said.
“We absolutely and completely blew it. I truly believe it’s a beneficial tax for B.C. [but] even people who would support it now voted in the referendum against because they were so angry about the way it was introduced,” he said.
Despite that error, he wants the electorate to look at the province’s economic rating in today’s economic climate and keep that in mind when they vote in May.
“On balance, I do know the things we’ve done have benefited B.C. We have a triple-A finance rating and seven consecutive economic upgrades, and that certainly says something,” said Hawes, a former banker.
Although Hawes leaves politics in May, he has set a busy agenda for himself over the next eight months pursuing three initiatives.
One is to create an overarching body to oversee the management of the Fraser River, with consensus from relevant agencies and local governments.
“The Fraser River is a mess. The dikes are being eroded by river currents, it’s unsafe to navigate, and commerce is blocked beyond the Harrison River junction,” he said.
In the past, wing dams and maintenance kept a channel open for navigation, but the wing dams are gone and gravel is removed superficially, pushing the river flow into the dikes, he said.
“We tampered with Mother Nature when we encased the river with dikes and built up along it. Once you tamper with Mother Nature, you have to manage it.”
Secondly, Hawes wants to see the province commit to long-term, monitored and licensed residential recovery programs for addicts.
“Addictions services in B.C. are not effective at all. There’s a three- to six-week wait or more for detox, and that’s stupid,” he said.
The two- to three-month treatment programs are not enough as many addicts are just regaining their cognitive abilities then, and many need job and life skills to stay in recovery.
“For real recovery, for some people, it could take a year,” he said.
“We need to say, ‘we’re going to invest in people, we’ll give you the supports to succeed,’ but we’re failing to do that.”
He wants to see a review of current recovery homes, some of which he describes as “nothing more than flophouses.” Hawes wants the Ministry of Health to look at the range of models that do work, including faith-based programs, and fund them.
Hawes and MLAs Kash Heed and Joan McIntyre will tour the province and compile a report of their findings, which he hopes will be made public.
Finally, Hawes aims to work on regulations to manage blueberry propane cannons and related noisemakers.
“It’s out of control. I’ve got literally hundreds and hundreds of emails from people. Some people have to move because they can’t take it anymore, they’re selling their homes,” he said.
As for his replacement, Hawes has tapped District of Mission Coun. Tony Luck as his successor, as he will uphold the “free enterprise policies” of the B.C. Liberals.
“I think we have a very good chance of winning, to keep B.C. a free enterprise province,” said Luck, a 57-year-old financial advisor with the Investors Group for the past six years and a Mission resident.
“We have to keep taxes as low as possible, and keep our policies and regulations in place to keep driving the economy,” said Luck, who fears an exodus of skilled labour and young people to Alberta if an NDP government is elected.
Luck said he didn’t intend to run provincially and is enjoying his time on the district council, to which he was elected in November 2011. He expected to be a councillor for two terms, then mayor for two terms, he said.
But when Hawes decided to retire, he approached Luck and asked if he wanted to try to run for the MLA’s job.
“I had to discuss with my wife,” but now his nominations are in, Luck said.
There is no date set for the B.C. Liberals riding’s nomination contest yet for Abbotsford-Mission, and it’s not known if Luck has any challengers.
Hawes was to make his retirement announcement and the endorsement official at his seventh annual golf tournament on Monday (Sept. 11) at the Sandpiper Golf Resort in Harrison Mills.
Half the funds raised will to his riding association, and the other half goes to the Zajac Children’s Ranch in Mission.