MP reflects on career

After almost 10 years of assistants and party officials dictating his schedule, the newly retired North Okanagan-Shuswap MP has time

Colin Mayes has control of his life again.

After almost 10 years of assistants and party officials dictating his schedule, the newly retired North Okanagan-Shuswap MP has time in his workshop.

“I always used to rush with projects because I had to be back on a plane to Ottawa,” he said.

“Now if I don’t feel like working on it, I take the day off.”

The former mayor of Salmon Arm was first elected to Parliament in 2006, but decided last year not to seek another term during the recent election.

He’s pleased with his record in office.

“It’s been so rewarding to see the four-laning of Highway 97 from Armstrong to Kelowna and key work to the Trans-Canada Highway. And then there were projects like the new pool in Armstrong,” he said.

“You’re there to help the community build. Coming from a municipal background, I appreciated the struggles communities experience with infrastructure.”

Some issues were personal, including pushing to have parole ineligibility for sexual assault, abduction and murder go from 25 to 40 years.

The motivation came after talking to Armstrong resident Marie Van Diest, whose 18-year-old daughter Taylor was murdered in 2011.

“She didn’t want to relive it,” said Mayes of potential parole hearings for the individual convicted of the crime.

Mayes’ private member’s bill wasn’t approved before Parliament was dissolved for the election.

Among his toughest decisions was voting to extend the Canadian military’s mission in Afghanistan in 2007.

“You are taking responsibility to put them (soldiers) there. When someone came back in a box, you thought about that.”

During his tenure, Mayes was a lightning rod for residents critical of the Conservative government.

“It’s part of the job. If you are bitter, it will eat you up. If you are professional and keep cool, things will work out.”

Mayes came under fire last year for comments he made at a vigil for homeless individuals in Vernon. City of Vernon officials suggested Mayes had stated that homelessness isn’t a federal issue.

“What I said was the government didn’t cause homelessness. There’s addiction or tragedies in people’s lives that caused that,” he said.

For Mayes, a change in the last decade is what he believes is an increase in conspiracies fed by social media.

“I get people talking about big agriculture taking over seeds and vapor trails after planes. Why would we do that? With Bill C-51 (anti-terrorism legislation), people said the government was going to take over control. Why would we do that?”

His faith gave him great strength, and particularly the weekly prayer breakfast on the Hill.

“It put everything in context of what’s important in life. What’s important is how people remember you. Were you honest, do you have integrity? I was just a citizen with the privilege of serving in this position. You do your best but you don’t get wrapped up in the position.”

One thing he won’t miss is Question Period.

“It’s an insult to your intelligence. The opposition takes cheap shots and the government doesn’t necessarily respond in a responsible way. It was a real struggle to see men and women degraded that way,” he said.

“I worked with opposition members who did great things  and were good friends. Elizabeth May is a close friend but we are way apart in our politics.”

Beyond his next project in the shop, Mayes hopes to speak to area students as a way of creating awareness about government and democracy.

His wife Jacquie and their children have decided that he’s done with politics, but Mayes isn’t closing the door completely. A constant rumour is that he will run for Salmon Arm mayor again.

“You can’t relive the times of glory. I left as mayor on a high and left as MP on a high so it’s hard to relive those days,” he said.

 

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