Doug Routley (Submitted photo)

Doug Routley reflects on 2019, and his career in government

Exlcusive year end interview with Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, Doug Routley

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, Doug Routley has been in office since 2005. In 2017, the NDP formed government with support from the Greens – which means Routley has spent only two years of his career in government. Routley spoke with the Chronicle to reflect on his 2019 accomplishments, and his time as an MLA.

In 2019, the NDP has spent $17.5 million to build the health science centre at Vancouver Island University (VIU), $5 million to expand the marine, auto, and trades complex, $4.9 million into new trades seats for plumbing, electrical, and power engineering. For other education funding, the NDP has put forth $7.4 million in school upgrades in Nanaimo-North Cowichan, $210,000 in playground funding, and $65,000 to fund new Indigenous teaching spaces.

In housing for the Nanaimo-North Cowichan region, Routley said the NDP has either built or begun construction on 550 new affordable housing units.

Some major construction projects have started, like the Crofton Road upgrade which will see the entire road repaved and widened.

RELATED: Long-awaited Crofton road improvements finally happening

The NDP reversed cuts to ferry service from Nanaimo to Gabriola Island, and Crofton to Vesuvius, and reduced fares on those routes by 15 percent.

RELATED: Routley welcomes restored ferry service

Routley helped secure funding for the Morden mines in Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park. The government committed $1.4 million to restoring the park and preserving history of the area.

RELATED: B.C. government commits $1.4 million to restore Morden Mine near Nanaimo

In childcare, the NDP has announced 400 new child care spaces. Routley said the government has put ‘$6.7 million back in to parent’s pockets’ with the Affordable Childcare Benefit. The NDP also gave $815,000 to the First Nations early childhood program for Nanaimo-North Cowichan.

The NDP has announced a new hospital in Cowichan, a new ICU in Nanaimo, and an urgent care clinic in Nanaimo. $5.5 million was invested for new MRI machines at Nanaimo General Regional Hospital, (NRGD) to run MRIs 24 hours a day. Routley said that has resulted in 2,000 more MRIs performed at NRGH in 2019. The NDP has put $7.5 million into upgrading electrical at NRGH, hired 30 new paramedics for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, and purchased three new ambulances for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

RELATED: Urgent primary care centre will be an expansion of clinic at Nanaimo’s Port Place

“I’m really happy with those riding specific pieces,” Routley said. “I have to say that after 12 years in opposition, running around the province listening to the challenges people face, and essentially promising to address those, it’s so satisfying to actually see it happen.”

With his 14 years of experience as an MLA, Routley said he has much more freedom as an individual, and a greater appreciation of the political process.

“It has given me a much freer voice. When you start out, you’re learning, and everything’s overwhelming. You’re also cautious because you don’t know what the ramifications are. Experience in dealing with challenging environments like that gives you the ability to navigate clearly, and not be afraid of standing up,” Routley said. “… With the perspective I have now, I know how hard it is to drive change, how long it takes to get something done – it’s a long process. It’s absolutely amazing how much does get done, and how many people it takes to get things done.”

Routley’s riding is quite diverse. His riding boundaries have changed in 2009, and 2015. The big change was 2009, when his boundary expanded by 50 percent. He is now responsible for Crofton, Chemainus, Ladysmith, south Nanaimo, Cedar, Yellow Point, Cassidy, Gabriola, Thetis, Penelakut, and Valdes Islands. There are six First Nations in Nanaimo-North Cowichan, six local governments, and two school districts.

“I look at it almost neighbourhood by neighbourhood with each place having a separate identity,” Routley said.

Beyond regional diversity, Nanaimo-North Cowichan has the second lowest number of English second language speakers in B.C., and double the provincial average of self-identified Indigenous people. Routley said he feels the strongest possible sense of duty to advance truth and reconciliation in the riding.

Routley is also prioritizing climate change through his work. He views climate action in two ways – in a larger scale sense with NDP decisions that impact the province, and in a practical sense.

“I can say a lot of things that sound really good about [climate change], but what can I actually do? I think a strong part of the achievable for me is, I have a responsibility as a representative to do what I can to contribute to solutions, but more immediately I have a high duty to help mitigate the consequences for our community,” Routley said.

Routley said all public officials have a duty to acknowledge the world is in a climate crisis, and that they must have a ‘laser like focus’ on solutions that will help people get through the worst impacts of climate change.

Although Routley has been the MLA of the area for over a decade, he said he doesn’t look at Nanaimo-North Cowichan as ‘his’ riding.

“40 percent of people love you without knowing you, 40 percent of people can’t stand you without knowing you, and 20 percent are kind of in the middle… I feel like it’s not personal. If somebody is upset and I take heat, it’s fine. They must have the freedom to express anger… I have to be prepared for that, and everybody who takes office has to be prepared for that – and welcome it.”

Over the years, Routley became well known in the B.C. legislature for expressing anger. He’s been called one of the NDP’s ‘regular hecklers’, and received Andrew Weaver’s bronze medal heckle in 2015. Now that Routley is in government, he heckles far less than he did in opposition.

RELATED: B.C. Greens back NDP restrictions on kids under 16 working

“I’m very collegial. My reputation as a chair of committees is that I go out of my way to accommodate people. But there’s a place called Question Period… I struggle to explain why it is that way, until I took a high school student on job shadow with me to meet George McMin, and he was 53 years in the B.C. Legislature. He sat this kid down, and he explains to him that at home, at school, and in the community we teach you to work in a civil way, show respect, and not interrupt. The kid agrees, and [George] says, Question Period isn’t like that. He said Question Period is a place where you and your family can bring your grievances to government. He said, ‘we have anger in passion in the chamber so we don’t have blood in our streets’. It was the most brilliant explanation of it,” Routley said.

Routley said that the NDP once tried a question period without heckling. Without heckling, they were able to ask more questions, but at the end of Question Period, constituents accused them of not caring enough about issues.

“It is the embodiment of the idea that you can complain about your government and not fear a knock on the door at night, and that – to me – is vital.”

In 2020, Routley wants to focus on ‘better change in forest policy’. He said that working on forest policy is the biggest challenge in front of the NDP government currently. He also wants to see a general push to improve institutions like ICBC and BC Hydro. Another priority is improving access to childcare spaces to ensure that parents – mothers in particular – have an opportunity to advance their careers. Overall, he said the NDP is focused on lowering the cost of living across the province.

Routley will run for office again in the 2021 provincial election. He’s not committed to running for office again beyond the 2021 election. If he is reelected in 2021 and ends his career in 2025, he will have served the Nanaimo-North Cowichan area for 20 years.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From left to right: Don Smith 1st Vice President, Mayor Aaron Stone, Legion President Darlene Paulson, And Sgt at Arms Greg Paulson. (Submitted photo)
Legion announces changes to Poppy Campaign and Remembrance Day service

There will be no public Remembrance Day service this year

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
Mary Fox book: My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

My Life as a Potter is available now at bookstores nationwide

BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson on the campaign trail. (Submitted photo)
BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson clarifies position on climate change

Paterson calls human activity a ‘contributing’ factor and says climate change must be addressed

Property on the Trans Canada Highway beside the Country Maples Campground has been sold and will become a modular home park. (Photo submitted)
Development, business transactions significant for Chemainus

Two highway properties and Owl’s Nest Bakery and Bistro sold

Chris Istace campaigning in Crofton. (Photo submitted)
Green Party’s Istace apologizes for remark about First Nations gaming grants being a ‘handout’

Candidate determined to do better in thinking and communicating matters of reconciliation

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Conservation officers hope the public can provide information about who shot and left a bull and cow Roosevelt elk near Spruston Road, south of Nanaimo. (Photo: Facebook)
Pair of Roosevelt elk shot and left in woods south of Nanaimo

Conservation officers hope public can help find who killed the animals near Spruston Road

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read