There is much that Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon says he will miss about his job when he hangs up his hat at the end of the current mandate.
He will miss working in the beautiful surroundings of the B.C. legislature. He will miss interacting with constituents and he will miss being in the centre of power, where everything happens. Most of all, he will miss being able to get things done.
“That’s what I like best about this,” he said. “I like getting things done. That’s my whole thing. I like projects and moving things forward.”
However, it’s what he most misses right now that is the main impetus for leaving — and he doesn’t regret his decision.
He points to a photograph of his children on his office desk at the legislature and then to another photo of the same people on a table across the room. They’re older in the second picture and that’s the whole point.
“This was me in 2005 with my family,” he said. “These are the kids now. They’ve grown and I wasn’t there. This job absorbs you. When you are in session you are here five days a week. It takes up so much of your life, but now I will get my life back.”
He stressed his departure comes not because of any political wind blowing or health issue, although he did suffer a heart attack last year. Rather, he said it’s just time to go.
“I never planned to be a career politician,” he said. “That wasn’t my goal. Two terms for anybody is really enough. You learn the ropes in the first half of the first term and you get done what you wanted to get done in the second term and then you get out of Dodge.”
As he prepares to bow out of the political limelight, Cantelon said he doesn’t plan to entirely disappear from the radar.
“I will still do projects to help communities on different things,” he said. “Now though, I will be able to pick my projects.”
Cantelon has held numerous positions during his two terms as an MLA, including brief stints as Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Minister of Forests. He has also served as caucus chair and as the parliamentary secretary for seniors, has sat on the Treasury Board and was Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth and Chair of the Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act.
The portfolio he has found the most rewarding however, he said, is the one he holds now.
“I like Innovation and Technology because I passionately believe we have to reconfigure the forestry sector,” he said. “If we don’t change, other people will harvest our trees and process them and we will see wonderful products and ask where it came from and be told it came from our wood.”
When thinking back about his accomplishments during his time in the legislature, Cantelon naturally points to the ongoing work at the Oceanside Health Centre as the jewel in the crown.
“The health centre is certainly one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said. “We are trying to move care closer to the people. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the people going to emergency can actually be treated there.”
However, it is by no means his sole accomplishment — not by a long shot.
“I helped to save Gerald Island,” he remembered. “Some American guy was going to buy it, so I said, let’s do it now. I got hold of Barry Penner and said we need $1.3 million to buy Gerald Island or we are going to lose it to the Americans. Well, it got bought and I take some specific credit for that. Barry and I went out there and did a Flags of our Fathers thing with the B.C. flag, just for fun.”