It’s been a year of learning, serving and surviving for Abbotsford-Mission MLA Pam Alexis.
Alexis, the former Mayor of Mission, was elected to the BC Legislature, as a member of the NDP, in November of 2020.
In the past year, she has learned and experienced a great deal.
Alexis ran a short campaign during the heart of the Covid pandemic, was elected and during her first experience in the house, she was wearing her bedroom slippers. It was a Zoom meeting, she explained.
“Who would have ever thought 10 years ago that this was remotely possible?’
Her two years as mayor was a key factor in her decision to run provincially.
“I think the reason why I made the decision to go for it, was because I was really aware of the things that we needed,” she said.
As Mission’s mayor she also worked closely with the City of Abbotsford on joint projects between the two communities.
While the learning curve was steep, Alexis began the massive challenge of putting together her team and preparing to represent both communities in the Legislature.
“I was giving tasks to do by the Premier – one of those tasks was to sit on the Finance Committee.”
The committee is a mix of NDP and Liberal MLAs who evaluate budgetary requests.
She was also named the chair of the Government Caucus Committee of the Economy and serves on both the Fraser Valley Caucus and Women’s Caucus.
“I do want to say how proud I am in that I am the first female MLA in this riding and I am the very first NDP MLA in Abbotsford. So, there’s a lot of firsts, a lot of expectations and certainly a lot of pressures.”
When she was first asked to run Alexis said she wanted assurances from Premier Horgan that the Highway 1 expansion project would proceed past Abbotsford.
“I know how important that is to the Fraser Valley.”
There is now a completion date scheduled for 2026 and the highway will be expanded two miles past the Whatcom exit.
“That’s massive for us (Mission) because we are a city of commuters. It’s massive for Abbotsford with the number of goods and service people that have to get to points in the Lower Mainland.”
She added that infrastructure and services to match growth are her number one priority.
Other priorities include the waterfront development in Mission and ensuring the success of the agricultural sector, mainly in Abbotsford, specifically the ag-tech sector.
Alexis was happy the provincial government was able to award four grants to Abbotsford ag-tech companies.
“My job has been to open the door for the valley,” she said.
In the past year, Alexis has brought five or six different ministers to the valley, including Horgan who came out twice, once virtually.
“I can pick some key places for him to visit which would give him a much greater understanding of who we are. Really that’s the focus to introduce the valley.
I just feel so proud of the work that’s been done to date and the impression we’ve been able to make.”
When in Victoria, Alexis described the work as gruelling, calling the schedule unbelievable.
“It is your whole life, when we are in session.”
When back in her riding, Alexis continues to meet with constituents, but mostly on Zoom
While being an MLA is a high pressure job, Alexis said it’s a different type of pressure.
When I was Mayor, I was the one people blamed for everything, which I understand, but as MLA I feel there is a shared responsibility. So I don’t feel that intensity that I did as mayor.”
Overall, she says she feels lucky to be an MLA.
That may be an understatement, considering she suffered a serious health emergency in September.
Alexis was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital after suffering a stroke. Fortunately she made a rapid recovery and has already returned to her office.
She said she feels lucky and grateful to be among the maybe 1,000 people who have been MLAs in B.C.
“There’s something majestic about being in the house.”
It’s a long way from the Mission School Board where Alexis first ran for office in 2005, not knowing how far her political career would go.
“If anybody were to even say that (she would become an MLA) I would have said ‘You’re crazy, I would never do such a thing.’ You know, it isn’t for the faint of heart, there’s no question, but I am so glad that I had so much government training to get to where I am.”