It’s not the work North Okanagan Shuswap MP Colin Mayes will miss when he retires from federal politics.
“What I found in life is that the things that last are the relationships you have with the people you work with,” he says, noting he has fond memories of working with people in Salmon Arm City Hall when he was mayor, and has developed a good network of contacts and friends in MPs from across the country. “All legislation is part of your work, but the relationships you build, those are the things that last.”
Musing on what his legacy as a member of Parliament will be, Mayes says that he got things done.
“I think I can say that in good conscience when I see all the new road work, water and sewer sanitation projects and water infrastructure in various communities like Chase,” he says, noting the projects and the new pool in Armstrong and highway improvements in Vernon give him a sense of satisfaction.
Mayes said it is good to be part of a government that has a focused policy on taxation and is trying to get more money back into Canadians’ pockets.
He extols the prime minister’s efforts on the global scene to better the lives of women and children, and says the maternal care program has seen three million children vaccinated and reaching the age of five, thanks to Canadian dollars and efforts.
In response to why this country was so long in contributing to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, Mayes says his own angst about the matter, given that his daughter Bev Kauffeldt has put her own life on the line in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse, was put to rest at a briefing with the departments of Health and International Development.
“It’s interesting, because I kind of grabbed a hold of that and asked ‘why is that taking so long,’” Mayes says. “I gave them both barrels.”
He says he backed down when he heard the Canadian government is dealing with 350,000 Ukrainian refugees as well as 1.2 million Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
“They said we dealt with those two and didn’t suspect Ebola would spread the way it did. It has always been isolated before,” says Mayes. “I can now understand; they had to find the manpower, the dollars and the capacity to respond.”
In terms of the intense anger many Canadians are expressing toward the prime minister, Mayes says the biggest challenge for a government that has been in power for a long time is the Canadian tradition of changing government every 10 years.
“But, you have to be careful what you change it for,” he says, pointing to former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney’s GST, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) and acid rain legislation. “He was said to be the most green prime minister Canada ever had but, at the end of his career, there was lots of dislike. That’s what happens when you’re doing things.”
Mayes says his government has modernized federal services, with Employment Insurance services and Veterans’ Services going online.
“If there is a problem, there’s people there to help,” he says, noting services to veterans in Vernon are now provided in Service Canada, where a rep is available to help. “It’s a transition, and a recent report said Canada is one of the most technically advanced in terms of government.”
Mayes says his government has lowered taxes, resulting in the lowest taxes in 50 years and infrastructure investment is the largest in 50 years.
“For the first time in modern history, the Canadian middle class is better off than the American,” he says. “You have to say we gotta be doing something right.”
Mayes is also proud of the introduction of the 10-year passport and the Nexus program that gives Canadians easier passage at the border with the U.S.
He says a lot of the good things his government does falls under the radar.
“With our lower taxes and childcare credit, we estimate an average family of four now has $7,000 more in their pockets,” he says. “A UNICEF report says the child poverty rate in Canada decreased during the recession, with roughly 180,000 children being pulled out of poverty.”
Mayes says the number of Canadians living below the low-income cutoff is now at its lowest level ever at 8.8 per cent.
“Since 2006, there are 225,000 fewer children living in poverty and that’s since we were elected. Where that’s coming from is the 1.2 million jobs that have been created,” he says. “When you provide jobs you help families and we’ve been doing that. For UNICEF to say that, it’s not the government patting ourselves on the back.”
Unsure of what lies ahead for him and his wife, Jacquie, Mayes says the couple is thankful for their good health and looking for new opportunities.
Mayes acknowledges Jacquie has been a great asset during his almost decade-long time as MP.
“I think people often appreciate her more than me,” he says, crediting Jacquie with having had a big influence on the support given to spouses of diplomatic corps members and senators. “We’ve enjoyed doing this together and I think it’s important for people to see two people can live together and work together.”
Mayes maintains the hardest thing personally about being an MP and why he will not run again is because he is tired of being away from home.
“I don’t recognize anyone, my oldest grandson is 15 and will be gone someday soon – I just want to be home,” he says. “I know not everybody supports our policies, but people have been kind to us and it has been an honour serving our constituents. It has been a great experience.”