SKEENA NDP MLA Robin Austin speaks to supporters at his May 2013 victory party. He's now hinting at retirement.

Skeena NDP MLA hints at retirement

Robin Austin will make his decision after spring sitting of legislature

  • Wed Feb 10th, 2016 8:00am
  • News

SKEENA NDP MLA Robin Austin is hinting he may not run again in the May 2017 provincial election.

First elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and then again in 2013, Austin says it may be time for a change.

“I was nominated when I was 46 and I’ll be 59 at the end of my term,” said Austin last week.

“There just may be a need for generational change and that’s OK and I’d like to do something different in my last years of work.”

Austin said he’ll be making up his mind at the end of the spring term of the legislature.

“That’s about when the [party] leader’s office will want to know who is running and who isn’t and that’s a year before the next election. They’ll need to start making preparations,” he said.

Austin, a community social worker by profession, won the NDP nomination in Skeena in early 2005 and then defeated sitting Liberal MLA Roger Harris in the provincial election that same May. Harris had previously defeated the veteran NDP MLA Helmut Giesbrecht in the 2001 provincial election.

Then in the May 2009 provincial election, Austin defeated Liberal candidate Donny van Dyk and in the May 2013 provincial election defeated Liberal Carol Leclerc – now the Terrace mayor.

Looking at his years in office, Austin said he drew a lot of satisfaction from his time as chair of a legislative special standing committee on aquaculture.

That involved an extensive travel schedule accompanied by hearings into the issue of whether the northern coast area and other places could safely house open fish farms containing non-local species in the ocean.

“We were able to stop the inflow of fish farms on the north coast and so prevent some of the effects of those farms on the south coast,” said Austin.

He is also happy he had a role in elevating public school financing issues so that there is recognition the system needs more money.

That stemmed from Austin being the opposition critic for education for a period.

“I think we’ve taken a big step there,” said Austin.

“The public is now in support of teachers. And that’s not just K-12, but also post secondary education,” the MLA added of the public awareness now concerning the public school budget troubles.

“Ten years ago we were second in the country in spending per pupil. Now we’re second to last.”

If there was one disappointment in Austin’s political career to date it’s that he’s never sat on the government side of the legislature.

“I don’t think anyone goes into politics to be in opposition. You want to win,” said Austin.

Based on the two NDP byelection victories in the Lower Mainland on Feb. 2, one in a riding considered safe and the other being taken from the Liberals, Austin says that’s a good sign for the 2017 provincial election.