FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Richard Neufeld may sound like a very familiar name to people in northern B.C. as well as many in the province.
Neufeld has a connection to the North Peace having served the community since 1991 and still continues to be involved in politics as a Senator in the Canadian Senate.
He took time out of his schedule while at home in Fort St. John yesterday to visit students at North Peace Secondary School yesterday to talk about the Senate in general and also to discuss his role and how he got to where he is today.
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Neufeld was first elected to government in British Columbia in 1991 when he was elected in the Peace River North riding as a member of the opposition. He was elected again in 1996.
In 2001, he was re-elected in Peace River North for the B.C. Liberal Party. He was appointed Minister of Energy and Mines by Gordon Campbell. Neufeld was the longest serving serving Minister of Energy that B.C. has ever had after he finished that position in 2009.
He stopped by North Peace Secondary School yesterday to share about perhaps the biggest honour of his political career. In December of 2008, he was appointed to the Senate on advice from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Neufeld was the first Senator to represent B.C. north of Kamloops.
He shared with the students the moment he found out he was going to be a Senator.
“I was heading to Victoria, my office as a Minister was in Victoria and I had my constituency office here so I would go every Sunday night or Monday morning to Victoria and stay there until Friday and come home on Saturday. I was going down for my weeks work and I was at the airport catching the plane at probably 10:00 am or so and my assistant from Victoria, she phoned me and she said ‘what have you been doing?’ I said ‘what do you mean? I’m waiting here for the airplane to come to work’ so she said ‘The Prime Minister’s office just phoned for you’.”
Neufeld said he couldn’t call them because he was about to catch his flight. He told his assistant he would call them when he arrived at his office in Victoria.
“So we got to Vancouver and the weather was bad going across to Victoria and they had cancelled a couple of flights. The ladies from work called and said ‘they keep phoning here’ so I said ‘when I get there’, so I got there to my office in Victoria and the Prime Minister was on the phone. That was how I had my first conversation with the Prime Minister.”
After he gave his presentation to the class, he said that he enjoys visiting schools and sharing the knowledge that students should be more aware about.
“Ms. Harrison asked if I would come and speak to the class so I said certainly. I did that quite a bit as an MLA, I used to come here fairly regularly but I think this is probably the second time since I’ve been a Senator that I’ve been asked to speak to a class.
I think it is important to tell young people why we have the Senate, what it is there for, what it does and some of the good things that it does. I’m not saying the Senate is perfect by any stretch of the imagination.”
He says he thinks the questions the students asked him were great.
“I think they were good questions and I think they have to realize that I’m no different from anybody else just because I’m a Senator. That doesn’t make me any different from anybody. I do a job, you do a job, we all do and we all try to do the best job we can.”
Since becoming a Senator, he says he has 2 memories that stick with him the most and that he thinks are highlights.
“There are lots of things I can remember from the Senate but the biggest highlight was:
A. I got a call from the Prime Minister asking if I could sit in the Senate;
B. Getting sworn in. It is similar to getting sworn in at the Legislature in British Columbia but (as a Senator) you get sworn into the highest political house in Canada. That to me is awe inspiring. Not many people get that, I don’t know how many Senators that have been in since Confederation but it isn’t a lot. To be trusted to do that job by people and the Prime Minister made that decision on his own.”