Signing thank you cards in her B.C. Legislature office is what “retirement” looks like for out-going finance minister Carole James.
“I guess I’m a failure at retirement so far,” laughs James. “I’m continuing on as a caretaker government for the next couple of weeks.”
“This is the first election since 1990 when my name wasn’t on the ballot when I went to vote so it was a very strange experience, very strange experience, going to take some adjustments no question about it,” James says.
James led the BC NDP for seven years — taking over in November 2003 when morale was low after the party had been decimated to just two seats in the 2001 election.
In 2005, she helped the NDP win more than 41 per cent of the popular vote and 33 seats — including her own riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill, beating incumbent Jeff Bray, who she’d lost to in 2001 by just 35 votes.
“There are nice people in politics and Carole is one of them,” Bray says.
“She has always been respectful, always been friendly and is always trying to do the right thing. ”
But one of the toughest political moments came in December 2010, when Jenny Kwan publicly criticized James and called for an immediate leadership convention.
“I joked I’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly in politics and I think lots of leaders have gone through that experience but I also think it strengthens your values,” James says.
James stepped aside but instead of quitting, she stayed on to help the party.
“Credit to her, rather than fighting back, rather than being bitter about it she doubled down and gave all of her time and effort to both incoming leaders who followed her,” says Stephen Smart, former press secretary to premier Christy Clark and a member of the press gallery during the leadership crisis.
As accolades pour in on social media for the 62-year-old who’s made friends across party lines, she can’t help but tear up.
“It really has been pretty overwhelming,” says an emotional James. “I get choked up thinking about it because it has really been such a privilege for me to be able serve my community.”
Focusing on her family and her health after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, James plans to take up boxing and hopes people will remember her for working hard and always keeping her integrity.