Black bids goodbye in legislature
Dawn Black had to choke back a few emotions when she got up to speak last Thursday.
Normally that wouldn't have been a problem for the New Westminster MLA. After all, she'd given many a speech in the House of Commons, the provincial legislature, at community events and along the campaign trail.
This was different, though. When she got up to talk, she knew it would be the last time in the official political arena.
"I took a couple of pauses at critical moments, and took a deep breath," said Black in an interview the next day.
After that breath, she then launched into reflections on her career, the state of women in politics, and a ton of thank yous.
Black's journey to the political podium took a while. Politics never entered her mind as a possible career. She was a mother of three by the time she was 24. But when Premier Dave Barrett's NDP government appeared to be in trouble in 1975, after just 3 1/2 years in office, she was bothered because he'd made what she considered some valuable changes introdcuing the agriculture land reserve, Pharmacare and ICBC. They had also banished the strap in schools.
"If you have to resort to beating children you've really lost," said Black.
So she got involved eventually serving New Westminster in either Ottawa or Victoria on and off since 1988.
"It's been a wonderful career. It's been an incredible honour to serve the people of New Westminster both provincially and federally. It truly is. It's an honour and a privilege. The people have always been kind to me, not everybody supported me but they were always kind and polite. This is a special community," said Black.
Although their place in the halls of power has certainly expanded from what was available to her generation she would like to see more women involved in politics.
"Some younger women now see that as potential choice, but not for women of my generation. It wasn't something that you thought about as a young woman," said Black.
In her speech, Black talked of the women who had blazed the trail for her in Canada and British Columbia. She said it's important for girls and young women to see the faces of women in leadership roles like former NDP leader Carole James, who Black praised, and Premier Christy Clark.
"It's always been important to me. It's hard to have a fully functional democracy if we don't reflect the population we serve, and women are more than 50 per cent of our population. We need to do the same with ethnicity," said Black. "If those voices are not at the table, those views aren't reflected around the table."
In her speech, Black pointed out only 24 per cent of MPs are women and they make up just 31 per cent of MLAs—which ranks Canada 45th in representation of women in national parliaments—there's still a long way to go. "This is simply not good enough," she said.
She is passing the NDP torch in New Westminster to former union leader Judy Darcy, who will run for the New Democrats in her place. It will give her more time to spend with her husband Peter, and her three sons and their families.
"It's just time, it's just time. And I recognized that when I decided to not run again," said Black, who will turn 70 on April 1.
Although the polls indicate the NDP will form the next provincial government, Black doesn't have any regrets about not being able to participate in a party in power when all of her representation previously has been in opposition.
"It's nice to quit in an upswing," said Black, who admitted it would be more difficult to leave if the party's poll numbers were down. "I'm not jumping off a sinking ship, I'm swimming against tide."
With the election on May 14, Black will have to close down her constituency office when the writ is dropped, expected to be mid-April. That means she won't be able to help any constituents after that, and will have to refer them to the constituency office of the nearest MLA, Raj Chouhan in Burnaby-Edmonds.
"I feel a bit bad about that because it's a while before the next MLA is elected and then before they're sworn in," said Black.