On Sept., 21, 2013, I was honoured to mark 20 years as the MLA for St. Johns.
It has been a great privilege to work with and serve the people of St. Johns. After all, in 1993, I was elected with a pledge to be "a strong, compassionate voice for St. Johns."
On election night I began my victory speech, "Not once, not so much as even once, not at even one door... was I bitten by a dog." I’m sure that led many in the room to wonder, "Who did we just send to the Legislature?"
Well, I have learned since then, sometimes the hard way, and have also worked hard to help out whenever I can.
It has been a rewarding journey. I learned of the community’s spirit and strengths early on, with the triumphant efforts to save Seven Oaks Hospital and to stop the Flood of 1997 from claiming a single St. Johns home. And no efforts can hold a candle to our nationally-recognized campaign to keep Pollock’s Hardware from closing with the formation of a community-owned co-op.
I was heartily welcomed by community anchors such as the Canadian Polish Congress, Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre and the West Kildonan Legion. I came to know the local heroes who give their own valuable time to create these welcoming strongholds that build communities. I continue to be inspired by the amazing volunteers at Luxton, Ralph Brown and West Kildonan community centres, our curling and lawn bowling clubs, parent councils, child-care boards, charitable and faith-based organizations.
These experiences have emboldened efforts to engage local people to strengthen our neighbourhoods, for example, resident associations, cleanups and green teams. Our collective efforts have pushed back crime, cleared off graffiti, built a new high school in West Kildonan, added child-care spaces and a new child-care centre, renewed every playground, and enhanced home values with new investment and sweat.
Our office’s Peacekeeper Awards have allowed me to meet hundreds of strong and resilient youth in the community, and I am confident that the future of St. Johns will be just as vibrant as it is today.
We have come far, but several community actions are needed to keep this positive momentum going. A strong merchant’s organization to fully revitalize Main Street, addressing population pressures at schools such as École Belmont School, and more residents’ associations in West Kildonan would help our community continue to grow stronger.
I will work tirelessly to ensure that our provincial government continues an effective partnership to enhance our quality of life in St. Johns. Thank you for your support, friendship and your warm and respectful advice over the last 20 years.