Doug Routley has more than a year to get used to the idea of not being an MLA anymore.
Routley, 62, the New Democratic Party MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, has announced he won’t be seeking reelection in the next provincial election on Oct. 19, 2024. Barring an early election call that seems unlikely, that time will mark nearly 20 years since Routley was first elected as an MLA for the Cowichan-Ladysmith riding in 2005.
He was subsequently reelected as MLA in the revamped Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding four more times in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2020. The ridings have since been redrawn again and the boundaries of Routley’s current constituency will be changed.
Looking ahead to 2024, he decided it was time to retire in consultation with his partner of 15 years Leanne Finlayson, who’s active in politics herself as the constituency assistant for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP MP Alistair MacGregor. Finlayson intends to keep working.
“It’s always been a team effort with us,” said Routley. “She’s involved with the NDP more than I am – on the federal level. She understands the politics of it but also the issues. We’ve always been a team that way.
“After 20 years in politics, if we wander around the valley, she knows more people than I do,” he laughed.
Routley added a pending retirement for him has been a frequent topic of discussion between them in recent years.
“In 2020, it was a question then,” he indicated. “Because it was a shorter three-year period (in 2017) it was easier to look at a four-year period.”
But going into another election next year and being 67 years old at the end of that term, Routley looked at the situation differently.
“I feel like I’ve had my time at it,” he said. “It’s time for someone else.”
Another consideration in making a decision now is “you have to give the party a chance to select a new candidate,” Routley explained.
Health conditions have also factored into his decision to depart next year. He’s been affected by arrhythmia from birth and had a pacemaker installed about 10 years ago.
Stress can exacerbate it at any time, although “unless it’s actually happening, I’m without any symptoms,” Routley pointed out.
The hardest part of leaving when the time comes is “I still enjoy working with people in the community and getting things done,” he said.
After previously serving as a school trustee for half a term (two years) in the Cowichan School District, Routley was 44 when he first assumed a place in the legislature.
“In some ways, it seems like it’s whipped by,” he said. “In other ways, it seems like it’s been a long time.
“It’s nice to be connected to the community and even witnessing what people are doing in the community. People work together and get amazing things done.”
Many experiences stand out for Routley, but also political comrades and opponents since he’s served both in opposition and in the majority government.
“Some of my best friends are on the other side,” he conceded.
Routley has developed an admiration for other politicians like Shirley Bond, who served as interim leader of the BC Liberal Party from 2020 to 2022, and as the leader of the opposition.
The last election in 2020 brought that bond with other politicians more clearly into focus, with Ladysmith Councillor Duck Paterson running under the BC Liberal banner.
“How do you run against somebody you love?” pondered Routley. “He’s a great guy.”
But that’s politics and he’s learned to deal with not making things personal in those situations.
“As I leave it, I know I’ve contributed to the partisan melee at times and I also see things have shuffled to extreme positions out there,” Routley confided. “I worry about that.
“People, in order to get anything done, they really need to work together.”
Routley never served in a cabinet position, but that hasn’t concerned him. “Honestly, I enjoy being a parliamentary secretary,” he said.
“Nobody votes for you in Victoria. They vote for you here. That’s the most important thing to remember.”
Routley is the Parliamentary Secretary for Forests. He has served as the opposition spokesman for Citizen Services, deputy spokesman for Forests – Forest Futures, opposition critic for skills training, convener for the Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, a member of numerous Select Standing Committees and last year as the chair of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.
“The biggest shift in politics I think I’ve seen, it’s the strides B.C.’s making on reconciliation – just coming to terms with an under-leveraged asset in our entire province,” Routley pointed out.
He’s impressed with the young leaders who’ve emerged from First Nations communities.
As he looks around at the NDP’s current representation, Routley has found himself among its most senior half dozen members.
“There’s a few of us in caucus who have been here a while and a few new members,” he pointed out. “We’ve all been in this mentoring role.”
Upon retirement, Routley intends to spend more time on his model railroading hobby and get back into cycling that has long been a passion.
“I’ve enjoyed being close to the important issues of B.C., knowing on a personal level who the people are and how an issue is playing out,” he summed up.