VICTORIA — Gordie Hogg says he’ll never forget the night he almost burned down British Columbia’s legislature.
It happened during one of the building’s infamous all-night debates when he says he didn’t shut off the electric barbecue he kept in his office.
“We were called in to vote and I came back and there was smoke all over, everywhere, and the oil had leaked through the barbecue onto the carpet and I thought I would be able to solve it by pouring hot water on it,” the 20-year Liberal member said Thursday.
The member for Surrey-White Rock is one of 14 politicians who left the legislature for the final time Thursday as the session ended. He and the 13 others are not running in the May 9 provincial election.
Hogg marked the occasion of his last day in bold fashion, wearing a multi-coloured suit that would make hockey analyst Don Cherry blush.
But behind the blazing sartorial display were the emotions of taking a last walk down the halls where he had a hand in decisions that shaped the province, Hogg said.
“I go with some remorse and some pain,” he said. “I’ve got lots of great memories and certainly a lot of great people are here who made a big difference. I’ve been pretty blessed to have this opportunity.”
Among those who are leaving are New Democrat Sue Hammell, who was first elected in Surrey in 1991 when Mike Harcourt was premier. Leaving the Liberals are veteran cabinet ministers Bill Bennett and Terry Lake. Independent Vicki Huntington also isn’t seeking re-election.
New Democrat Leader John Horgan paid tribute to the 14, saying their departures signal a changing of the guard that will bring new people and fresh ideas to the legislature.
“All political parties should strive to have a renewal plan,” he said, adding the house is also losing decades of political experience.
“The legislature is a better place when we have a turnover of MLAs over time.”
Horgan said it will be hard to replace the long-running feud between Kootenay-area adversaries Norm Macdonald, a New Democrat, and Bennett.
“Their constituencies are in the far east of B.C.,” said Horgan. “Norm is from Golden and Bill’s from Cranbrook and they fight like cats and dogs as partisans and also it’s just the rivalries of the region.”
Liberal house leader Mike de Jong said the rivalry is the product of the intense commitments people bring to legislature to serve their constituents.
“This is a place that can generate some very adversarial behaviour,” he said. “Norm Macdonald arrived as committed as anyone wanting to improve his community. It’s tough in opposition. Opposition is a tough job, having spent seven or eight years there myself.”
Horgan and de Jong agreed that Bill Routley, the two-term New Democrat from Cowichan Valley, will be greatly missed for his union-hall style of oratory and his trademark phrase “jiggery-pokery,” which became part of political lexicon at the legislature.
“One of the best things about this place is it brings together a cross-section of society and some real characters, and he is a character,” said de Jong. “He brought that wit and twinkle in his eye to debates and left a mark.”
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press