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After 30 years in politics, Carole James prepares for retirement – and boxing lessons – Times Colonist



Carole James has advice for first-time members of B.C.’s legislative assembly.

“Trust your gut. Trust your heart,” B.C.’s deputy premier and finance minister, and MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, said Saturday, at the end of her 30-year political career. “And listen and learn to begin with. The job is like drinking from a firehose. It can be so overwhelming.”

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James said she has been so busy during the past month, she hadn’t really thought about her impending retirement until the day before the election.

“It kind of hit me last night when I was getting notes from people saying goodbye and saying thank you that this really was the end of a large portion of my life,” said James, 62. “I had someone remind me that I had been on the ballot in this community every election since 1990. I was on the school board from 1990 to 2000 and I’ve been on the ballot every provincial election.”

Leaving the political whirlwind will be a big adjustment. But James, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in January, knows it’s the right decision. She’s been warned by retired or “recovering” politicians that the first six months will be challenging because politics has filled up so much of her life.

“To go from that to not being as busy takes some time to adjust. So I’m preparing myself … I’m not planning to sit around and not do anything. My family would hate that the most, because I wouldn’t be happy. So I’ll be looking for something else. I have nothing planned.”

James is looking forward to spending more time up north with her husband, First Nations artist Albert Gerow, an elected chief of the Burns Lake First Nation. “We’ve spent a lot of time apart, so that will be nice.”

She’s also fortunate to have her grandchildren, Hayden and Charlie, in town and wants to spend more time with them.

Looking after her health is also a priority. Much to her children’s amusement, she plans to take boxing lessons to help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s. “It’s one of the exercises that’s been proven to help with Parkinson’s,” she said. “It touches on brain-eye co-ordination. It touches on balance.”

Friends have given her one pair of pink and one pair of orange boxing gloves. “I think that will be something completely out of my comfort zone.”

Retirement will also include other things she had no time for in the past few years — reconnecting with people, having lunch, going for long walks with friends.

Looking back on her career, James believes the school board gave her the best grounding in governance. One of her best experiences was saving the school strings program in the 1990s, then going to her granddaughter’s Christmas concert in 2016 to hear her play viola and clarinet. “The joy of seeing something you were involved in benefiting so many children years later is extraordinary.”

As a member of the opposition, James said, she learned that you can’t make a big ­difference, but you can make a difference. “We ended the clawback of child support for women on income assistance when we were in opposition, because we were focused and determined.”

Her most rewarding accomplishment in government was getting free tuition for former youth in care, she said.

“That will always stand out for me, because that’s life-changing for generations,” said James. “We know what happens, generationally, if someone gets stuck in the cycle of poverty and how hard it is for the next generation to get out. That was a significant change.”

During the next four years, the government will have to focus on the issues of homelessness and mental health that the pandemic has brought into sharp relief, said James. “It will need attention and need a focus that was obvious to people who worked in the field, but wasn’t necessarily obvious to society, to communities, as it is now. The pandemic has really shown the stresses and the strains for people who are vulnerable and struggling.”

James has one more piece of advice for first-time MLAs: Don’t forget family and friends.

“Politics will come and go, but your friends and family are always going to be there and they will help you get through the tough times. And don’t spend so much time on social media,” said James with a laugh. “I’m looking forward to not checking Facebook and Twitter ­obsessively.”

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Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth to launch political party –



His political prospects appear bright following a vacuum created by the deaths of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned politician with the governing party in the state, and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.

Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians.

C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi were scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong following.

Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth worked as a bus conductor for three years before joining an acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also tried his hand in politics as a member of India’s Parliament, representing the Congress party in support of his friend, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1980s. He resigned after three years following allegations that he accepted bribes in the purchase of artillery guns. His name was later cleared in the scandal.

Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press

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COVID-19 doesn't care about politics –



Remember the Team Canada approach to fighting COVID-19, the one where political parties would put the collective fight above partisan interests? Remember “we’re all in this together?”

That was all so yesterday. Today, there is very little non-partisan co-operation between federal parties. And Canadians, too, have become increasingly partisan and divided.

It was probably all inevitable, but it’s unfortunate, nonetheless.

Partisanship has entirely replaced bilateral co-operation in Ottawa. The government stands accused of flubbing Canada’s vaccine program. Because of that mismanagement we are at “the back of the line,” according to federal Conservatives.

It is true that the government, and especially the prime minister, have been unnecessary vague about vaccine delivery and rollout details. It is not true that we are at the back of the pack. Canada was the fourth country in the world to strike an agreement with Pfizer, one of the vaccine producers. It was one of the first to sign up with Moderna, another producer.

Moderna co-founder and chair Noubar Afeyan, who came to Canada as a refugee from Beirut before he moved to the U.S., says this country is in good shape. In an interview with CBC News, he said “Canada’s not at the back of the line,” adding “Each of the contracts we negotiated — and Canada was among the first to enter into a supply arrangement with Moderna — is individual, and of course the people who were willing to move early on, with even less proof of efficacy, have assured the amount of supply they were willing to sign up to. I know in the case of Canada their number is about 20 million doses.”

It is fair to criticize the Liberals for their communication to date around vaccines, but it is not factual to claim Canada is at the back of the line. However, that is a good example of how partisan strategy has replaced the collaboration that was a welcome feature of the pandemic’s early days.

It is also true that Canada will not get vaccines as quickly as countries like the U.S. and U.K., where vaccines were developed and produced. This country doesn’t have that production capacity. It did at one point. There was publicly owned Connaught Labs, which was privatized under the Mulroney Conservative government in the ’80s. Later, the Harper government cut research and development spending and other pharmaceutical companies closed shop and moved elsewhere. Now that capacity is largely gone, and it needs to be replaced, urgently.

A similar partisan divide exists among Canadians overall, according to recent opinion polling data. In general, Liberal and NDP voter respondents in several different polls were more likely to be primarily concerned about the health impact of COVID-19, while those who identified as Conservative were more likely to be concerned about the economic and business impact. According to polling by the Angus Reid Institute, 89 per cent of respondents who voted Liberal, NDP or Bloc reported regularly wearing masks, while 71 per cent of Conservative voters reported doing the same.

Interestingly, one poll by Leger suggests many Canadians are not so concerned about getting the vaccine at the same time as the U.S. or U.K., where vaccines are produced. Forty-eight per cent said that they were “not that concerned” and feel “a few months won’t make much of a difference,” while 37 per cent said they are worried that we won’t get the vaccine at the same time.

The point that matters most is this: COVID-19 doesn’t care about our political leaning. It is an equal opportunity virus. And that should unite us more than anything else.



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SIMPSON: If pettiness of politics around Surrey feels familiar, there's a good reason why – Surrey Now-Leader



If you had to describe Surrey’s political climate in one word, which would you choose?

Divisive? Too easy.

Defective? Depends on whose side you’re on.

Dysfunctional? You can’t argue with that, can you?

Anybody who follows municipal politics in our area knows that for a journalist, the city council beat can be a particularly juicy one, especially when presented with the right mix of contentious issues and strong personalities.

Stories about certain council members’ inability to deal with disagreements like grown ups are nothing new. Just say the word ‘pencil’ down near White Rock’s City Hall and see what reaction you get.

And over the years, our newsroom has been privy to many tips and tidbits about our elected officials. Some were worthy of publication, while others were… well… definitely not.

Somebody’s sleeping with someone’s husband.

These two are dating.

Somebody’s a home-wrecker.

These two were photographed coming out of a hotel together.

These two were caught making out in the back of a car.

But the gossip isn’t always sexual (although it’s disturbingly common) – so-and-so hit ‘like’ on a Facebook post that made fun of a fellow slate member.

Wait. We actually did that story and I got yelled at for it.

Anyway, you get the point.

OUR VIEW: We expect integrity from leaders

The politics surrounding Surrey has gotten too nasty and too personal – and it can make it difficult to stick to the issues.

In the past few months, we’ve told you about attack ads featuring doctored photos of councillors. We’ve shared full exchanges from chambers that would tell you all you need to know about the pettiness on council.




Fake photos.



Enough, already!

OUR VIEW: No time for childish spats, Surrey council

Consider the response we received after we asked a councillor if it’s fair to publish an attack ad if it uses doctored photos and inaccurate quotes.

“I can’t answer that,” was the terrible answer he gave.

Does any of this feel familiar to you? If it does, there’s a good reason why.

Let former U.S. President Barack Obama explain.

“More than anything, I wanted this book to be a way in which people could better understand the world of politics and foreign policy, worlds that feel opaque and inaccessible,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic about his recently released book.

“It’s interesting. You’re in high school and you see all the cliques and bullying and unfairness and superficiality, and you think, Once I’m grown up I won’t have to deal with that anymore. And then you get to the state legislature and you see all the nonsense and stupidity and pettiness.

“And then you get to Congress and then you get to the G20, and at each level you have this expectation that things are going to be more refined, more sophisticated, more thoughtful, rigorous, selfless, and it turns out it’s all still like high school.”

That it does. That it does.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader and can be reached at

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