Throughout her time as Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett strived to represent the people, not the government.
“That’s who you have to remember,” she said as she cleaned out her office in Williams Lake on Friday, Oct. 30. “Everybody who walks through the door is a constituent. I always looked at it this way — I want everyone of those people, just as if I had a business, to come through my door again.”
Barnett’s political career has ended, ‘for now,’ she said.
“Who knows what your future will bring? Who knows what your health will be like? At 78 years old anything can happen.”
Her first experience with politics was with the Socred Cariboo Association beginning in 1972.
“I was a volunteer for Alex Fraser for all those years. He was a great mentor.”
In 1986 she was elected mayor of 100 Miles House and left in 1990 until she’d ‘had enough.’
“I did a lot of work. I did boundary expansion as the industrial area wasn’t part of the town. It was amazing what we accomplished.”
Six years later the community pestered her to run again.
She was elected in 1996 and stayed on as mayor until 2008.
“I’d had enough of politics and then got talked into running for MLA.”
Reflecting on her 11 years as MLA Barnett said she most enjoyed working with the people in the riding with one of the biggest issues being land use.
“Reconciliation, the treaty process and those types of things have been on the table for some time and the government has to become more transparent. The only way we are going to have reconciliation work is if everybody is at the table, not just politicians. People want to know what is going on.”
Nobody is denying reconciliation has to be done, she added.
“It has to be done. You are never going to have harmony and work together by doing something in isolation. We are all here for the same reason so we all need to be part of the process.”
The Cariboo Chilcotin is a complete resource region with forestry, agriculture and mining and Barnett said she wishes people living in the Lower Mainland would understand their wealth comes from resource communities.
“When you cross the Port Mann bridge, what’s the first thing you see? You see logs, ore, agriculture products all being loaded on and off the water.”
Eyeing retirement, Barnett sold her home at Horse Lake last April and purchased a modular home in a seniors trailer complex in 100 Mile House. She’d planned on travelling in 2021 after the originally scheduled election, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic her plans have been put on hold.
“I am very concerned about other seniors in the winter. We’ve already locked them up for nine months and there has been no family planning put together which should have been done.”
The mental health and the heartache is her biggest worry, she added.