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Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong to retire from provincial politics

BC United MLA says he is considering a run with the federal Conservatives
Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong announces on Wednesday in the Legislature in Victoria that he is retiring from provincial politics. (Wolfgang Depner/Black Press Media)

On Feb. 17, 1994, Mike de Jong beat Socred icon Grace McCarthy by 42 votes to win the riding of Matsqui for the upstart BC Liberals in a byelection.

Almost 30 years to the day and eight terms in the provincial legislature with multiple cabinet posts on his resume, de Jong announced Wednesday (Feb. 14) that he is retiring from provincial politics, while confirming that he is considering running for federal office.

“I don’t know,” said the Abbotsford West MLA when asked why he chose to retire now.

“It feels right now. I have seen people leave this place bitter and I’m not. Every day, I walk in here, I think, ‘God, I’m lucky to work in this building.’”

De Jong, who is B.C.’s long-serving current MLA and has held eight cabinet portfolios – including finance, health and attorney-general – said he wants to take more personal time with his family as well as travel abroad.

“But I’m going to work,” he said. “I don’t have the luxury of just retiring.”

RELATED: Abbotsford BC Liberals de Jong and Banman heading to Victoria, say Highway 1 widening will be focus

De Jong, who recently turned 60, confirmed that the Conservative Party of Canada has approached him with what he called “a request to run as a candidate” in the next federal election currently scheduled for October 2025.

“It’s also true that I’m considering that but I want to emphasize this – I haven’t made a final decision, so I’m not withholding that decision from you.”

De Jong added that he will take some time to make his decision while serving out the remainder of his term.

“But I will begin the process of transitioning back into the private sector, which is a place that I haven’t really been in for three decades.”

De Jong’s decision to leave provincial politics also comes as polls show his party, BC United (formerly the BC Liberals), is struggling in the polls behind the Conservative Party of BC. This is an echo of the times when the BC Liberals were the upstarts challenging the Socreds as the main party uniting the free-enterprise coalition against the social-democratic New Democrats.

De Jong implicitly acknowledged his party’s current standings, but denied any connection between the state of BC United and the prospect of running federally.

“Almost for me, it’s the reverse,” he said. “I don’t like to run from a fight and my party’s in a battle right now. My party is very much the underdog. Our leader (Kevin Falcon) is battling hard to establish familiarity around a new name. “

But if the coming election, “is not going to be easy” for “my team,” de Jong could also spot “some new energy and some new ideas” in his party.

“It’s got a new group of talent that’s going to present itself to British Columbia.”

De Jong said he will miss the people with whom he has served and worked with over the last 30 years, which he estimates somewhere between 200 or 300 MLAs.

“Each one of them has story,” he said.

De Jong cited the signing of up to seven comprehensive treaties with First Nations and B.C.’s fiscal record among his accomplishments.

“It’s an honour and it’s a privilege (to have served),” he said.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the people of Abbotsford have been lucky to have de Jong represent them. “Thank you, Mike, for an incredible 30 years of service to this party, and our province as a whole. Our entire (caucus) is wishing you the best in all that the future has in store.”

Speaking in Abbotsford, Premier David Eby acknowledged that he and de Jong did not agree on many things over the years in their respective roles.

“There is no question about that, but the one thing I will say about Mike is that he never made it personal,” Eby said. “Mike came to politics from the practice of law and I always had the sense when dealing with him, that he wanted to be professional. We were both involved in politics and while we might disagree, that he would be friendly, he would be willing to engage and that he would clear where his lines were, where he would agree and where he wouldn’t.”

Eby added that de Jong was “very good on his feet” when responding to his questions in Question Period. “He is a bright guy and he contributed a lot in his time to government. Again, we didn’t agree on everything, but he always treated me professionally and my colleagues as well and I wish him the best in his next steps.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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