by Frank Bucholtz
Rich Coleman took a page out of Pierre Trudeau’s book – announcing his retirement from politics on the rarest of days, Leap Day (Feb. 29).
He chose the date because he had been first nominated to run for the BC Liberals in what was then the Fort Langley-Aldergrove riding on Feb. 29, 1996 – 24 years earlier. He also wanted to announce it early enough to give the party plenty of time to nominate a candidate in what has been one of the safest BC Liberal seats in the province. The next election is not scheduled until the fall of 2021, but it could come sooner if for some reason the minority NDP government loses a confidence vote – or decides the time is right to seek a new mandate.
Coleman has contributed a lot to Langley in his 24 years as an MLA. The biggest accomplishment is the building of the Langley Events Centre, a showpiece for the community. As minister of forests at the time, he was able to steer enough provincial tax dollars Langley’s way to make the project happen. His constituency office has been located there for many years.
He also played a significant role in getting the Gateway of Hope built. That project was started by the community under the leadership of Gary Johnson of the Salvation Army. It took a big provincial commitment from the ministry of housing, which Coleman was responsible for during most of his days in government, to take it across the finish line.
He took concerns of constituents seriously. At a forum I moderated in last spring involving elected officials from all levels of government, he ducked out for a short time. The reason – concerns raised by residents in attendance about Canopy Growth’s marijuana greenhouse near the U.S. border. He stepped out to check more details, and returned to tell them that he would raise the issue with federal officials, as the legislation legalizing marijuana specifically mentioned odour control.
It’s ironic that just after he announced his retirement, the company announced it was closing the greenhouse, due to many problems it is having.
Like any politician who has been in office for many years, he has also faced controversies. Currently, political opponents are blaming him for the money laundering problems at B.C. casinos. He was in charge of gaming for the BC Liberals for a number of years.
While the BC Liberals have much to answer for in the way gaming was regulated on their watch, it is definitely a stretch to blame money laundering for the high cost of housing, as Attorney General David Eby routinely does. There are many factors in housing costs. If it was a factor, it was a small one.
One thing that Coleman was very good at was running campaigns. He hasn’t got enough credit for doing so, but he played a crucial role in the 2013 victory of the BC Liberals under Christy Clark. The NDP was surging, the fallout over the HST hadn’t gone away and the pollsters said that Clark was going to lose. She won, thanks to victories in a number of key ridings, her efforts in campaigning and Coleman’s work in the background.
He has always highly valued his family and his retirement from politics will give him much more time to spend with them. He will stay involved, as he told Dan Ferguson of the Advance Times in an interview.
Langley has benefited greatly from his passion for politics, community service and getting things done. Here’s wishing him all the best in his next adventure.