Speaker says farewell to politics

Former Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff wraps up his role as B.C.’s Speaker of the House

Former Penticton-Okanagan Valley MLA Bill Barisoff spends some fishing time with grandson Ben Barisoff recently. After 17 years in office Barisoff decided to retire this year. He was replaced by fellow Liberal Dan Ashton.

Former Penticton-Okanagan Valley MLA Bill Barisoff spends some fishing time with grandson Ben Barisoff recently. After 17 years in office Barisoff decided to retire this year. He was replaced by fellow Liberal Dan Ashton.

While most other MLAs who weren’t re-elected on May 14 quickly returned to private life, former Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff just wrapped up his official duties this week.

Barisoff, who didn’t seek re-election, was also Speaker of the House, a role that doesn’t end with the election.

“The day the writ is dropped, you cease to be an MLA, but the role of Speaker stays on until a new Speaker is elected,” said Barisoff, who handed over the Speaker duties to Linda Reid on Wednesday.

Barisoff said he spent the past few weeks trying to get people organized with office space in Victoria and helping ease the transition for outgoing and incoming MLAs. And with his role now complete, Barisoff said he will be taking away many memories from his time in office, but few regrets.

“I was as fortunate as you could be. I’ve been very fortunate to have a diverse role in politics and government, to be able to see it from the opposition side, from the government side and from the role of the Speaker, where you are looking after the members from both sides,” said Barisoff, who has also served as minister of revenue and minister of environment.

“I really can’t complain at all, I don’t think I could ask for a better term of office.”

But Barisoff is looking forward to a lot more family time.

“I think I’ll be spending a lot more time with my wife Edna, family and my grandkids. We have two of them here and one in Vancouver, so I certainly hope to spend a lot more time with them,” said Barisoff, who will be turning 64 this year.

“I am hoping in the next few weeks or so to get back out and get golfing again. Rick (Thorpe, former MLA) has called me a few times and we plan to play as many courses in the valley as we can over the next few years,” continued Barisoff. “It’ll be fun to get back to doing that. I like fly fishing too, so I want to get out and do some of that.”

After 17 years as an MLA and 18 years before that in local politics, Barisoff said his time had come.

“Seventeen years is a long time and I think that is as long as you would want to stay. In fact, maybe 12 years would be better,” said Barisoff, who had considered stepping down before the 2009 election.

“I was very close to doing that, but certainly I have enjoyed my tenure under Premier Campbell. You create a dynamic of good friends; Rich Coleman and Shirley Bond and others that you become close friends with during your time in Victoria.

“I hope that doesn’t go away. In fact, I talked to Richie yesterday and Shirley called this morning. You create those friendships and you hope they stay for a lifetime.”

Barisoff is also looking forward to not being a public figure.

“If I happen to go shopping with my wife, we would start on the first aisle and she would be almost down to the end before I caught up to her again. People always want to talk to you, but that is part of the role and part of the job I liked doing,” said Barisoff. “But it is going to be fun to step aside. I can phone up now and complain about things.”

While he is stepping away from government, Barisoff expects he will still remain somewhat connected.

“I think I want to help out wherever I can, I think that’s important. Certainly to help out both Dan (Ashton) and Linda (Larson), if they need any help,” said Barisoff.

However, he continued, the torch has been passed and it will be up to the newly elected Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and Boundary-Similkameen’s Linda Larson to make their own decisions.

“It’s a matter of helping them out where I can,” said Barisoff. “I think when the time comes, the transition has to take place and I am just so pleased that Dan got elected in Penticton and Linda got elected in the South Okanagan. I know them both very well and they are both going to do a superb job of representing the entire South Okanagan in Victoria.”