Two-term Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley announced Tuesday, Aug. 30 that he will not seek re-election at the next provincial vote in 2017.
It’s a big decision for Routley, who is known for emotion-packed speeches in the Legislature.
“I’ve really enjoyed being the MLA but I think it’s time,” he said. “I’m coming up to 68 this December — so much for my plan to retire early.”
He’s not likely to fade into the background, though.
“I really do want to keep active and pursue the list of things I just haven’t been able to get around to. I think it’s that time, and eight years seems to be about the average for MLAs. The lucky ones get to stay for eight years and I consider myself very fortunate.”
When he looks back, Routley is proud of how he’s been able to help people.
“The biggest thank you I got was from an eight-year-old girl, Emily Ben. It was quite amazing to me to be able to help her. She had been told that she would not be able to get an Ilizarov operation [to lengthen her leg]. I had gone to the minister of health with a letter of my own and asked for them to act quickly. This was around April or May 2012 and I found out from the doctor that all she needed was $100,000 for an extra set of tools and a half-time nurse to get the job done.
“I spoke in the Legislature and in August  Emily stopped by the office on her way home from Children’s Hospital with her mom and gave me this most beautiful thank you letter saying: ‘Thank you for listening to me.’”
“It was wonderful. It was like Little House on the Prairie.”
Further success came in being able to help yet another constituent with a medical emergency. In this case, it was Tammy Walker.
“She needed a double lung transplant and was being told she had to have $37,000 [in hand] before she could have it.”
Routley was greatly disturbed that a family that had spent themselves into bankruptcy trying to find some relief for Tammy was then being denied an operation because they had no more money.
“I had 20 minutes left in my throne or budget speech and Doug [Routley’s assistant, Doug Morgan] told me about how Norm Walker, who used to jump out of helicopters for the Canadian Coast Guard to rescue people, was now in this position. He had said, ‘I don’t know how to help my wife.’”
The upshot of it was that Routley let ‘er rip in the Legislature.
“It was one of those things where the timing was meant to be. We put pressure on the government right there and then. The minister yelled at me out in the hall for grandstanding and I said; ‘Look, this is my constituent. What would you do?’”
Routley is proud that his efforts were able to help the local campaign for the Walkers.
“We had an amazing response from the people of the Cowichan Valley,” he sai.
People from businesses and many others stepped forward to say they would make sure she got the money if Routley could make sure she got on the list.
“It’s great to see that people will step up when they see there’s a crisis. But what about the next Tammy?”
Securing a new candidate for the NDP will have to start soon but it’s not his job, Routley said.
“There’s lots of good people coming forward. I would suggest there will be quite a number,” he said.
Routley will be finished as MLA in May of next year.
“I think officially I will be done on the day of the election, which will be early in May of 2017.”
First elected to the provincial Legislature in 2009, Routley is no stranger to the cut and thrust of various kinds of politics. He was president of IWA Local 1-80 before resigning to run for public office, and years before, served as a school trustee in Lake Cowichan.