Times Colonist

Legislatur­e losing its oratorical star

Expansive MLA Corky Evans decides to not seek re-election

- LINDSAY KINES

Corky Evans, the loquacious logger and runner-up in two NDP leadership races, plans to quit provincial politics next May.

Arguably the best orator in the legislatur­e today, Evans informed Opposition leader Carole James recently that he will not seek re-election in 2009.

“It’s kind of bitterswee­t, eh?” he told reporters in a conference call yesterday, flashing the folksy style that earned him comparison­s to Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

“It’s not possible to be real happy or real sad, because you are both. I love this work, and also I think it’s time to move on.

“Its like a kid leaving home,” he explained. “You think, ‘Well good. I’m glad. They’re leaving home. Now they’re going to have a life.’ … But it’s also kind of sad because you raised them. So it’s both.”

James called Evans one of B.C.’s “true political and moral leaders.”

“Whether you’re a New Democrat or a Liberal, Corky’s skills, his abilities and his larger-than-life personalit­y will be missed by everybody in British Columbia,” she said.

First elected as the MLA for Nelson-Creston in 1991, Evans twice finished second at NDP leadership convention­s, losing to Glen Clark in 1996 and Ujjal Dosanjh in 2000. Over the years, he also served as minister of transporta­tion, agricultur­e, health and rural developmen­t.

Defeated when Premier Gordon Campbell and the Liberals swept all but two seats in 2001, Evans won re-election in 2005 and recently served as Opposition agricultur­e critic.

Now 60, he said his decision to leave was prompted, in part, by boundary changes that excluded his Slocan Valley home from the NelsonCres­ton riding.

“Of course, I could have run and, of course, I would probably win because I have long history with folks,” he said. “But it didn’t feel like it would be about us then; it felt like it would be about me. And that seemed like kind of a difference and not something I was real comfortabl­e with. And that was sort of the moment where I thought maybe it’s time to end this thing.”

As to what he’ll do next, Evans said bluntly: “Get a job.”

Born Conrad St. George Evans in California, he moved to B.C. in 1969 with his wife and two children. Over the years, he has held jobs as a longshorem­an, first-aid attendant, youth counsellor and horse logger, losing one of his fingers in a work accident.

But it was in the B.C. legislatur­e that he made his mark.

“When Evans rises, people actually go into the assembly hall to listen, rather than pack up and leave,” columnist Les Leyne wrote in the Times Colonist in 1997.

Evans attributes his style to the storytelli­ng tradition passed down by his parents.

“I am, in fact, a bit of an anachronis­m and I’m comfortabl­e in an oral world,” he said. “I’ve tried to use voice to express my thoughts and represent people.

“I get it that that’s not hip anymore, and Mr. Campbell’s got 600 people to make sure that he only writes or speaks words that they write. I’m very, very proud that I have been there for a long time and never spoken words that anybody else ever wrote.”

In recent weeks, he was at his passionate best defending medicare, attacking the government’s handling of the forestry crisis, and deriding the Liberals’ decision to ram bills into law without debate.

Of his time in public office, he listed the creation of the Columbia Basin Trust as one of his proudest accomplish­ments. The trust controls three power plants in the Kootenays and distribute­s the profit to community groups from Golden to Trail, he said.

“The trust is a great example of the commons and the first real functionin­g redistribu­tion of resource wealth that I’ve ever known,” he said.

As for disappoint­ments, Evans said: “I’m sorry that Glen beat me and I’m sorry that Ujjal beat me and I guess that’s about it. And I’m not even all that sorry about either of those things because I got to have a good life.”

 ??  ?? Longtime NDP MLA Corky Evans will not seek re-election.
Longtime NDP MLA Corky Evans will not seek re-election.

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