It’s been quite the ride for North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena.
After more than 15 years in office, Trevena announced she will not be seeking re-election in the 2020 snap election that was called by B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“It is time to move on and take on new challenges,” Trevena said, adding it has been a “great privilege to be the representative of the North Island for 15 years and to have the trust of people across the constituency.”
Trevena, who has been a fixture of the Vancouver Island political scene since 2005 after she defeated Liberal candidate Rod Visser by 660 votes (11,464 to 10,805), is originally from England and had previously worked as a journalist, a public information officer, and also owned her own business with her husband Mike before making the life-altering decision to enter the often controversial provincial political scene.
When asked why she decided to give up her life as a private citizen and enter the public eye, Trevena simply stated she had decided it was “time to put my energies into working with communities to make life better for people, and the opportunity for the nomination came up, I ran for it, and then I went straight into that first election in 2005.”
She noted she has always been interested in the concept of social justice, and that’s what led her to the New Democratic Party.
“It’s been a passion of mine all my life, and the values of the NDP best reflected where I was at and I really wanted to make sure that people’s interests were being looked after.”
After hard-fought campaigns that led to winning the North Island riding in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017, Trevena chalked up her success at the voter’s booth to “the values the NDP party have espoused, and those values reflected where people wanted their lives and their families’ lives to be… I have been very proud to be the standard-bearer for the (New) Democrats in the North Island for these last 15-16 years.”
According to Trevena, back in 2005, the NDP went from having three members in the legislature all the way to 33 “and it kept on growing from there… It was quite extraordinary, being able to work with the Green Party [after the NDP and the Greens combined to win the 2017 election] to make sure we could deliver on the things that we have been so passionate about for so long.”
Trevena was appointed as the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, where she says she managed to put public interest back into an out-dated ferry system.
“There’s no question BC Ferries is part of our marine highway and the fact we were able to change the legislation to take out the commercial interest and put in the concept of public interest has made a significant impact… I would hope the ferry system as a whole is now working in a way that reflects the needs of our communities.”
Two other big moments Trevena spoke fondly about were when she fought to get the Port Alice pulp mill reopened after it had originally shut down back in 2004 and how she had also fought to ensure that the Campbell River hospital stayed in the city and that when it was finally built it would continue to have free parking.
“That was very impactful working with the community on that,” she added, stating that while she was in opposition when both events happened, “you can achieve significant change despite being in opposition.”
As far as the Port Alice pulp mill shutting down for good in 2019, Trevena said it was “extremely disappointing for the community that Neucel walked away from this — they left not just the mill abandoned but the community abandoned as well. It’s an old site, the environmental cost is huge, and this is something that the communities in the North Island will be dealing with for some time… I know Port Alice is a resilient community and it’s a beautiful location, and I know that the people of Port Alice are very much determined to keep the community going.”
The last two years have been particularly hard ones, with fishing retention limits, a logging strike, and then COVID-19 all causing havoc, which Trevena called “the triple whammy.”
The logging strike in particular was “obviously very difficult as it went on for an extraordinary amount of time, and it had an impact on not just the people working directly in the industry but all our local communities.”
She stated the government’s non-involvement in the strike was primarily due to it being between the employers and the union.
“As a party, we believe in free collective bargaining, it is a democratic right. When you have a union, they can do free collective bargaining.”
Another controversial issue during her tenure in office has been the operation of fish farms in North Island waters.
“I think what we have seen very clearly is the coming together of the industry, Indigenous people and environmental groups, to ensure we can have an industry that is safely operating,” stated Trevena when asked her opinion on the farms.
She praised Minister Lana Popham and Minister Doug Donaldson specifically for their work in the Broughton Archipelago, adding she thinks there is now “very much an awareness that you have to have Indigenous communities working with the industry, and I’m very pleased we have done so much on this and I think it’s an important industry for the North Island. I know there are still people who are concerned about it, but I think we have started a real way forward to ensure that we are doing it properly.”
Above all else, Trevena wanted to say one last goodbye to her constituents.
“I’d like to thank all the people in the North Island whether they voted for me or not, it has been such a huge honour to have represented them. My job has always been to represent the people of the North Island and I have had the privilege for 15 years to be their voice in Victoria and to stand up on their behalf, and I would like to thank them for giving me that opportunity and putting their trust in me four different times.”
As for where the road will take her once her political career officially comes to an end, Trevena said she’s not quite sure about that yet.
“I’m working on the present campaign and then taking a little bit of time off and looking at what options are out there. I feel I have another career in me, I’m just not sure what it is yet.”