Now in his early 70s, and out of the wild west rodeo that is BC politics, Randy Hawes can sit back and reminisce on an election day.
Hawes’ career in politics straddled a time when the powerful Social Credit party was in its twilight years, and a transition to politics moving increasingly online.
He was a three-time mayor of Mission, when he was elected to the new riding of Maple Ridge-Mission in 2001. He beat his NDP opponent Rose Bennet handily, 12,920 votes to 4,710. He would be in Victoria for 12 years.
Hawes had worked characters like Austin Pelton who served in the former Dewdney riding from 1983 until 1991 as a Social Credit MLA. He called the former environment minister a “really good guy.” They were on an economic development committee together, with Pelton and area mayors, that was working on a Northern Corridor Highway. It would have run from Mission to the North Shore, but the job never got done.
It was a much different time – the BC Liberal Party took 77 seats, and left the decimated BC NDP with just two. Jenny Kwan and Joy MacPhail were all that was left of the NDP majority government elected in 1996.
“A lot of it was the NDP and the economy – and the fact that they had created a $4 billion structural deficit,” recalled Hawes. “They were so disgraced and so unpopular.”
He said people should be concerned with government spending, as they try to stimulate the economy after a pandemic. Their children and grandchildren will still be paying for stimulus spending by provincial and federal governments, he said. Budgets will be increasingly tight as interest payments take up spending
“If they aren’t worried about deficits and debts today, they are making a horrible mistake,” he said.
Hawes said politicians are buying votes with tax dollars.
“They’re shovelling money off the back of a truck.”
Hawes said his party leader Gordon Campbell will go down as one of the great premiers in the province’s history. The former mayor of Vancouver’s greatest gift was in keeping a coalition of politicians of various political stripes united. He remembers the many times Campbell would listen quietly to long debates that raged for over and hour, and then suggest a compromise the caucus members could all live with.
“He was one of the best premiers we have ever had,” said Hawes, noting he presided over a very strong BC economy.
His handling of the hated Harmonized Sales was was his downfall.
Hawes watches political issues from the sidelines today, both in his city and in provincial politics, and sees politicians getting smeared in social media.
“It can get pretty vicious.”
He said this election will come down to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main issue, and how voters feel the government has handled it, and how they feel about an election being called in the midst of it.