Mike Farnworth is now the deputy premier of B.C. in light of John Horgan's surgery admission.
Despite the circumstances, it's the highest position the long-time Port Coquitlam MLA has been named to since he was first elected to provincial office in 1991 — which was 30 years ago this month.
Farnworth knew the special milestone had arrived, but he didn't expect to get several standing ovations from members on both sides in the legislature on Oct. 21.
In the moment, the 62-year-old career politician was left speechless and with hardly the words to express his gratitude.
"It was a very special moment, it was completely unexpected and I was totally blown away," he said in an interview with the Tri-City News as he's since reflected on the acknowledgment.
"It was a very wonderful, touching moment, and it's something that I will always remember and always treasure."
"YOU DON'T LOOK BAD FOR 30"
It began with Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (BC Liberal) describing Farnworth (BC NDP) as passionate and dedicated, and holding the political prowess that makes him a fierce competitor in the chamber; both men had been in similar positions or portfolios in their tenures.
Upon de Jong's words, "Congratulations, Mike! You don't look bad for 30," a loud applause concluded an 11-minute speech filled with laughter and memories for the older members of the legislature.
Farnworth says coming together is a humanizing moment the public doesn't often witness when it comes to politics, believing everyone was elected for the same reason and purpose.
"[Every elected MLA] took different paths to get there, but it's to represent the community, to make this a better province for everyone, and at the end of the day we're all human beings all trying to do our best," Farnworth explained.
"There's a lot of collegiality that takes place that people don't see and, you know, that bit in the chamber which often makes TV is a very important part of the role of being an MLA."
"But outside of that," he said, "there's a significant amount of work that takes place that often crosses party lines. We're all here in essence for that same reason despite our differences and this is one of the moments, in my mind, that best demonstrates that."
In fact, he and Farnworth have worked alongside each other with the BC NDP since 2005 and are only weeks apart in age — Farnworth being the older of the two by 15 days.
In the time they've served, Horgan says all parties have expressed respect for one another despite political agenda.
"This is absolutely teachable moment of how decent people come here from every corner of the province with different perspectives and a different way of getting to a better life for our members, our neighbours and our communities."
Looking back on his three decades of public service, Farnworth says most of his accomplishments have been within his own riding.
He recalled the day when Port Coquitlam's provincial courthouse moved to downtown. He calls the building an "anchor" to the community and this past year, it began to host B.C. Supreme Court civil and family cases.
Additionally, Farnworth introduced "telehealth" when he served as health minister between 1997 and 1998, which has since developed into mobile applications and stretches to more remote locations thanks to technological advancements over the years.
Now, looking to the short-term future, he'd like to see more infrastructure boosts for Port Coquitlam, including a replacement for the Pitt River Bridge as well as key intersections where collision rates are high.
"I know just from personal experience and I've raised these with the transportation minister [Rob Fleming] that I think we need to get addressed," Farnworth explained.
"On the policing side, we've made significant changes in terms of safety and speeding that are in place and it's been one of those interesting things that even through the [COVID-19] pandemic, there was an increase because roads were more clearer. But that's an ongoing issue that, you know, there are always those who think they need to speed, but the reality is that they will get caught by police and they will pay tickets and penalties."
When asked if he wishes to stay as Port Coquitlam MLA for the next 30 years, he chuckled at the long-shot possibility of being a politician in his 90s, but he's "not ready to retire just yet."
"I enjoy immensely the job I'm doing. It's a great privilege working to be MLA. Port Coquitlam is the community I grew up in and I hold great affection for. It's a very special place to me."
Farnworth is currently the public safety minister and solicitor general under the B.C. government as well as the NDP's house leader in the chamber.
His résumé extends to the ministries of...
- Municipal Affairs and Housing (1997-1998)
- Employment and Investment (1998-2000)
- Health and responsible for seniors (2000)
- Social Development and Economic Security (2000-2001)
Farnworth also served on Port Coquitlam city council for three terms prior to his 1991 provincial election.
"It's pretty humbling and it's pretty special, it really is. I think back and I go, 'Oh, 1991? I just turned 32 and now I'm 62.' It's literally been half my life."