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Mike de Jong gives farewell speech after 30 years as Abbotsford MLA

Former lawyer retiring from provincial politics, hoping to become area MP
Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (shown here on provincial election night in October 2020) has given his final speech in the B.C. legislature. (Abbotsford News file photo)

B.C.’s longest serving current MLA has given his final speech in the legislature after 30 years.

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (BC United) said goodbye May 16 during the final session of the season for the legislative assembly.

De Jong, 60, announced in February that he is retiring from provincial politics.

He then confirmed in mid-April that he is seeking the federal Conservative nomination for the Abbotsford-South Langley riding being vacated by retiring long-time MP Ed Fast.

De Jong, a former lawyer, is the second-longest serving MLA of all time, next to Tom Uphill from the Kootenays, who served almost 40 years.

In his farewell speech, de Jong recalled coming up the stairs of the legislature for the first time after having beaten Socred icon Grace McCarthy by 42 votes to win a byelection in the Matsqui riding on Feb. 17, 1994.

De Jong said on his first day after arriving in his Mazda Miata with his spouse Isabelle, he considered the history of the building and all the important figures who had previously walked its halls.

RELATED: Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong to retire from provincial politics

“It feels like it was yesterday. I remember virtually every aspect of that day,” he said.

De Jong said on May 16 he was wearing the same tie and suit – “with the lapels that would made Don Cherry blush” – that he donned on his first day in the legislature in 1994.

He thanked the voters in Abbotsford who “took a chance” on him in that first election and who have continued to support him since.

“I am grateful for them, and they have overlooked a lot of flaws and a lot of mistakes along the way, but have stood with me and provided me with the honour to come here year after year, election after election,” de Jong said.

He said his experience as an MLA has been “exceedingly positive,” and he acknowledged all those he has worked with over the years, including numerous staff members, fellow MLAs and former premiers.

De Jong also thanked his family who was in attendance – his 96-year-old mom, his brother, his sister, and Isabelle.

“It’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to get into the Miata – the same car, the same girl – (and) head on down the highway,” he addressed the house.

“This place, this garden of democracy – folks, I have been incredibly lucky to have the gardening tools for 30 years. Now it’s up to you. The democratic garden needs tending. The flowers of democracy are fragile. It’s up to you to keep it healthy. I know you will.”

Prior to his speech, tributes to de Jong were provided by Opposition house leader Todd Stone and NDP deputy premier Mike Farnworth.

Stone said de Jong’s “unwavering commitment to public service has clearly left an indelible mark in the fabric of British Columbia.”

“Whether he’s charming locals that he bumps into on the streets of Abbotsford with tales form the political trenches or engaging in nuanced discussion with international lenders, Mike exudes a rare blend of charisma, intelligence, and more that’s adapted to that particular moment in which he finds himself,” Stone said.

Farnworth said he could tell from the beginning that de Jong was “going to be a character but he was someone who was meant for this place.”

“Thirty years is remarkable. Eight elections undefeated is remarkable. And to have the respect of everybody in this chamber – not just in the shape of the people who work here – is a remarkable achievement,” he said.

In his time as MLA, de Jong held eight cabinet portfolios, including finance, health, attorney general, and Aboriginal relations, as well as serving as house leader.

De Jong faces four others for the federal Conservative nomination in Abbotsford-South Langley: Ed Fast’s executive assistant, Mike Murray; Steve Schafer, the vice-president of the Langley-Aldergrove Constituency Association; Shanjeelin Dwivedi, who has served as a director of parliamentary affairs with two MPs as well as a senior adviser and campaign volunteer; and Skully White, owner of Lullys Food Experience gourmet hotdogs.

The federal election is slated for Oct. 20, 2025.

RELATED: Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong to seek nomination for federal Conservatives

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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