Life af­ter pol­i­tics

With the pub­lic spot­light turned off, for­mer P.E.I. MLAs are keep­ing busy in their com­mu­ni­ties with ev­ery­thing from work­ing to par­ent­ing and vol­un­teer­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERESA WRIGHT

Ron MacKin­ley may no longer have a seat in the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture, but he still keeps a closer eye on Is­land pol­i­tics than he likes to ad­mit.

Sit­ting in his home in Corn­wall last week, MacKin­ley shook his head when asked what he thought of the Wade MacLauch­lan govern­ment’s per­for­mance so far.

“They’re get­ting along good, but it’s too early to make any pre­dic­tions,” he said.

“I haven’t paid that much at­ten­tion to it.”

Then that fa­mil­iar sparkle ap­peared in his eye as he re­marked about the fall ses­sion of the leg­is­la­ture. He misses the back-and­forth ban­ter in the house, some­thing he was par­tic­u­larly fond of par­tak­ing in.

“When I’m watch­ing the house, it’s got very bor­ing,” MacKin­ley said.

“They’re all in there like a gi­ant love-in. I mean, we would have our dif­fer­ences, but then we would al­ways go out and have a coffee with the Op­po­si­tion af­ter. But now, you have 25 per cent Lib­er­als and 25 per cent Tories watch­ing, and they’d like to see a lit­tle feud go­ing on there.”

MacKin­ley an­nounced his de­ci­sion to re­tire from pol­i­tics just ahead of the pro­vin­cial elec­tion last spring af­ter serv­ing 29-anda-half years in of­fice.

Since leav­ing pub­lic life, MacKin­ley has spent most of his time catch­ing up on chores around his home and farm, where he raises horses.

He showed off a wall he built in the barn next to his home and a shed he built next to the nearby horse en­clo­sure. Driv­ing in his pickup down a rut­ted lane, he pointed to a big pile of farm rub­bish he re­cently cleared out of the barn.

But old habits die hard. MacKin­ley kept the same cell num­ber and still fields calls from area res­i­dents with con­cerns.

He be­lieves it’s this grass­roots ap­proach that helped make him so pop­u­lar as a politi­cian.

“I found that if you’re sit­ting in an of­fice, peo­ple mightn’t phone you or com­plain. But if you’re out and around, they’ll tell you what they’re think­ing. It’s a good way to keep your ear to the ground.”

MacKin­ley was one of sev­eral high-pro­file MLAs who did not re­of­fer in the pro­vin­cial elec­tion and who are now find­ing new ways to keep busy.

An­other was his boss, for­mer premier Robert Ghiz.

Be­sides do­ing school drop-off and pick-up of his kids, Ghiz says he has been do­ing char­ity work, in­clud­ing or­ga­niz­ing a fundrais­ing din­ner for veter­ans, as well as work­ing with the Prince’s Char­i­ties of Canada.

That char­ity, es­tab­lisehd by the Prince of Wales, in­volves im­prov­ing the lives of dis­ad­van­taged youth, education, re­spon­si­ble busi­ness, im­prov­ing the built en­vi­ron­ment, re­gen­er­a­tion of her­itage, en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and sup­port for the armed forces.

He has also been do­ing some con­sult­ing work for a few firms, all out­side the prov­ince, mainly in Toronto.

“I’ve got a lit­tle more flex­i­bil­ity, I’m spend­ing a lot more time with the kids and it’s good,” Ghiz said.

He noted the prov­ince’s con­flict of in­ter­est rules dis­al­low cab­i­net min­is­ters from ac­cept­ing em­ploy­ment from any per­son or firm that did busi­ness with the prov­ince for at least six months af­ter leav­ing of­fice. As premier, that left vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing off the ta­ble for Ghiz.

He says he will soon make a de­ci­sion about some op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to him, but as for spec­u­la­tion he may be of­fered an ap­point­ment by the Justin Trudeau govern­ment, he says those are “just ru­mours.”

Mean­while, a for­mer mem­ber of his cab­i­net is also ad­just­ing to life out­side the pub­lic realm, but un­der dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances.

Va­lerie Docherty was de­feated in the spring elec­tion.

She says this cre­ated an added level of an ad­just­ment, since the choice was made not by her but by the elec­torate.

“When you’re not done in your mind and you want to con­tinue to do what you’ve been do­ing and some­one else makes that de­ci­sion for you, it takes a lot longer to ad­just and fig­ure out, ‘what am I now sup­posed to do?’ ” she said.

“I’m a strong be­liever in things hap­pen for a rea­son… but I’m good with it and I’ve had the sum­mer to just look af­ter me.”

Docherty says she has found great plea­sure in gar­den­ing and scrap­book­ing. She has also been work­ing with a num­ber of char­i­ties, in­clud­ing Hospice P.E.I., Fam­ily Vi­o­lence Preven­tion Ser­vices and the Cana­dian Can­cer So­ci­ety.

On the other side of the political sphere, for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Rob Lantz has also been ad­just­ing to life af­ter pol­i­tics.

Lantz did not win a seat in the leg­is­la­ture last spring, but did stay on as party leader un­til even­tu­ally re­sign­ing in Oc­to­ber.

He has since re­turned to work in his for­mer field of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and has re­newed his pas­sion for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity with Crossfit and hik­ing trips.

He says he is en­joy­ing hav­ing more time with his fam­ily af­ter 10 in­tense months of cam­paign­ing, first for the PC lead­er­ship and then in the pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

“I don’t think the pub­lic has a full un­der­stand­ing of just how all-con­sum­ing political life is for our elected of­fi­cials,” he said.

“Al­though I was fully com­mit­ted to the po­si­tion I’d taken on, there’s a sense of re­lief that my fam­ily doesn’t have to pay the price of the com­mit­ment I made.”

He added he would be very sur­prised with him­self if he de­cided to take an­other stab at pol­i­tics.

Back in Corn­wall, MacKin­ley says he hasn’t ruled out some in­volve­ment with pol­i­tics in the fu­ture. He has been of­fered some con­sult­ing work, which he has so far turned down.

“I don’t know what the fu­ture is go­ing to hold. I can’t read the fu­ture,” he said.


Re­tired Lib­eral MLA Ron MacKin­ley feeds some of the horses on his farm in Corn­wall. MacKin­ley has been busy catch­ing up on farm and house­hold chores since leav­ing pol­i­tics last spring.




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