Melanie Mark “at peace” with her decision to leave the meanness of politics behind

Melanie Mark, the MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, announced her retirement on Wednesday, February 22, 2023.  (Michael McArthur/CBC - photo credit)

Melanie Mark, the MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, announced her retirement on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. (Michael McArthur/CBC – photo credit)

A day after announcing her resignation, Melanie Mark, the first First Nations woman to serve in the British Columbia Legislature and as a cabinet minister, said she felt “at peace” with her decision.

Speaking of on CBC’s The early edition, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, also said she feels “a sense of freedom.” And after calling the legislature a “torture chamber” during her announcement on Wednesday, she called on opposition Liberals to take her criticism too far during her tenure.

“I’ll refer her to Hansard,” she said. “There are records of the opposition standing up and blaming me. I think at one point I was accused of stealing money from the public for claiming dry cleaning [as an expense].”

“I’ve been accused of deleting emails. I’ve been accused of ruining the cruise industry, even though I’m not responsible for our ports’ federal mandate. I’ve been accused of ruining the RBC Museum – the Royal BC Museum – and all of this is taking its toll.”

Ben Nelms/CBC

Ben Nelms/CBC

Mark found returning to the legislature traumatic

Mark – with ancestry from Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibway – was first elected in 2016 and served as Minister for Advanced Education, Skills and Training and then Minister for Tourism until September 2022 when she stepped down from the portfolio to allow her to take on herself to take care of a medical issue and focus on her family and mental health.

“I had a chance to be at home and when I went back to the legislature earlier this year, the trauma came back – going back to the legislature and looking over at the Liberals,” she said.

Mark admitted she was “kissing around the house” in her role as an MLA, but said statements made on the floor boil down to being truthful when they are said.

“You can throw arrows at me any day as long as it’s the truth.”

Mark added that “getting beat up” shouldn’t come with being a politician.

“As an indigenous woman from my culture, I just don’t think that’s how you should go to work. I think you have to go to work with respect, treat people with respect, treat people with kindness. I think nowadays it’s too easy for people to attack politicians and I think we can do better. I demand that we do better.”

Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press

Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press

Task is to ask difficult questions: Falcon

Responding Thursday to Mark’s treatment of her treatment in the Legislature, Liberal leader Kevin Falcon said, “If that’s how she feels, that’s how she feels.”

“And it’s legitimate, and it’s real to them, and there’s just no question about it,” he added. “But I also think it’s important to point out that … our job as an opposition is to ask tough questions of the government.”

Falcon recognized Mark’s role as a pioneer in provincial politics and said it was unfortunate that she felt her experience in the legislature had been tainted.

“For that, my heart goes out to her.”

Mark gave everything

As Mark retires from BC provincial politics after seven years, Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council in Port Alberni, said she was missing.

“I think we all know that Melanie Mark made a difference,” Sayers said on CBC BC today. “She made a difference by becoming Minister in two portfolios. She was a voice for tribal peoples and she was able to make some positive changes – obviously not everything she would have wanted to do given the mandates she held. I think that Melanie Mark can go home with her head held high because she knows she gave it her all.”

Chi Nguyen, executive director of Ottawa-based Equal Voice – which campaigns for women and gender-biased candidates at all levels of government – called Mark’s scathing words about her treatment during her tenure “absolutely remarkable”.

“Hearing someone who has been in ministry for seven years and is doing this work and is a real trailblazer and role model for many communities to speak about the environment as being so tough and difficult, that’s a real tribute to all leaders who serve, but especially for women and women of color and members of the indigenous community. It’s not easy work.”

Mark plans to focus on family

Mark said she is stepping down as an MLA not because life in politics is tough but because of her daughters Maya and Makayla. Going forward, she said she plans to focus on family, but also intends to “supervise and coach” the MLA that takes her place.

“Now there’s a playbook,” she said. “I came into the legislature without a playbook.”

Mark will officially announce her retirement by the end of March.

An NDP spokesman said a date for a by-election has not yet been set.


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