Looking back on legislative service

For the first time I am writing this report on a Friday, the day after the 39th Parliament of the B.C. Legislature sat for the last time.

I have for the past eight years, since I began to write weekly reports, always done so on Mondays as that was the day that works most favourably for many in media.

For the first time I am writing this report on a Friday, the day after the 39th Parliament of the B.C. Legislature sat for the very last time.

The Legislature will again reconvene of course, after the next provincial general election in May, and when it does there will be at least two dozen brand new MLAs, including one here in Penticton.

That is, in my view, something we can all be excited about; that there are many dedicated people all across British Columbia who have the courage to put their name forward to serve.   Locally I am aware of three individuals who are running in this riding and I expect there may soon be more.

After this week’s report I will have between three or four more reports remaining until the writ is dropped and the election process will be underway. As I am not running for re-election, the procedures for an MLA who is retiring are different from one who is standing for re-election.

The largest change is that my MLA office will be required to close once the writ has been dropped.  This will mean that during the writ period if citizens have a provincial area of concern they will need to contact Enquiry B.C.

On the same theme if you have an area of provincial concern my office will continue to be open daily up to April 16 which is the day the writ is dropped and I will continue to be available for appointments until that date.

After my constituency office is closed (when the writ is dropped) all constituent’s personal information is destroyed and personal belongings are removed.

Once the office is vacated it will then be up to the newly elected MLA to determine if they would like to remain in the same location or select a different location.

As constituency staff are deemed to be employees of the MLA and not employees of the Legislature, their employment is ultimately terminated and on that note I hope all citizens of the South Okanagan will join me in thanking my two constituency assistants Marg and Jane who have provided many years of dedicated service to citizens in the South Okanagan and have in many ways become like my extended family.

My staff in Victoria; Karen and Angela  are deemed to be employees of the Legislature and as such they have a different employment status however I would also like to publicly thank them for many years of dedicated service over the past eight years I have served as speaker.

A newly elected MLA will have the opportunity to hire new staff or they can hire existing staff if so desired. Unused funds in my constituency account will be returned to the Legislature.

Although this will not be my final column as your MLA, I would like to take a moment to recognize all of the outgoing MLAs who will be retiring with this coming election.

Being an MLA or an MP means that you will at times spend more time apart from your family then when you are together.

As a result your colleagues in caucus and across the floor, including your staff, become like an extended family and saying goodbye is always a challenge.  I would also like to thank the many ministers over the years who were always willing to support important projects in the South Okanagan.

As the speaker you have a special ability to summon ministers to the office of the speaker to discuss matters of importance and over the years I am proud of the fact that the vast majority of the challenges faced we were able to work together and find solutions for.

Although the work is never done and there are challenges that remain I am confident that when people work together they will continue to do amazing things.

Bill Barisoff is the MLA for the riding of Penticton.