Where Are They Now? Graeme Bowbrick

Former New Westminster MLA Graeme Bowbrick went from the halls of the Provincial Legislature to the halls of academe, teaching law courses at Douglas College and SFU. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Former New Westminster MLA Graeme Bowbrick went from the halls of the Provincial Legislature to the halls of academe, teaching law courses at Douglas College and SFU.

In 1996, at age 30, Graeme Bowbrick was elected New Westminster MLA, part of the New Democrat government led by then-premier Glen Clark.

At the time, he was the youngest MLA in the legislature.

Four years later, he joined the cabinet as minister of advanced education, and not long after that, was promoted to attorney general.

By May 2001, the ride was over.

But a return to a life without politics wasn't easy.

For one, after all but two NDP seats were lost in the 2001 provincial election that brought the BC Liberals to power, Bowbrick found "the doors were not opening." Despite networking efforts, it became clear that after the Liberals received such a strong mandate, experience as an NDP cabinet minister was not exactly high in demand.

So he returned to a career as a lawyer. But even that wasn't easy.

The Law Society of B.C. questions a lawyer's credentials if they haven't practised in at least three years. It decided that being an MLA, and even attorney general, was not "equivalent experience" to make up for Bowbrick's years away from the profession.

That's how he found himself rewriting the bar exam, his second time in eight years.

"I wasn't happy about that," he said with some understatement. "I thought it was slightly bureaucratic."

After writing it and passing, Bowbrick set up a legal practise in New Westminster, which he was working away at until the the spring of 2002, when he got a call from Douglas College and began reinventing himself as a teacher.

He'd approached Susan Witter, then-president of the college, as part of his networking efforts with the idea that he could perhaps teach courses related to politics. But the call he got instead was from its criminology department, which thought his experience as a lawyer, attorney general and legislator would be beneficial.

Since then, Bowbrick has taught at Douglas, helped establish a program in legal studies for which he also serves as director, and developed a master's program in applied legal studies for new notary publics at Simon Fraser University, where he now also teaches.

And a few years ago, he went back to school himself and earned a master's degree in law. He's now occasionally called upon to provide commentary on legal issues for local media.

Bowbrick enjoys teaching, and using his personal experience in government in helping his students better understand the law, especially when it's directly related to current events.

"I encourage them to think that why the law is the way it is is because of politicians, that they're ultimately there as lawmakers."

Now 47, Bowbrick said for a few years after leaving politics he thought he'd like to return to the game, but no longer.

Single again after two marriages, he now has five children ranging in age from 18 to nine years old. Only two were around when he was in office, and the demands on his time took its toll, he said.

Bowbrick recalled when his eldest son was two years old, he'd sometimes be away from home for a week at a time. When he'd return, his son would make strange. "I really noticed that."

So one of the blessings of being defeated in 2001 was the time he gained, enabling him to build close relationships with his kids.

He's also grateful to have served in government. He's not sure how good he would be as an opposition MLA, where his main role would be to criticize the government. Not to mention he'd be taking a pay cut from his teaching posts and be forced to spend much time away from home.

Bowbrick is clear that it wouldn't be his cup of tea.

Then he rushes off to give a final exam to a waiting classroom full of students.

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