Posted on 29 August 2012 by Keith Lacey
The Town of Osoyoos and its residents will always hold a special place in Bill Barisoff’s heart.
“During all my years in politics and over numerous elections, I don’t think I ever had stronger support than what I received from the people of Osoyoos,” said Barisoff, who announced early last week that he won’t be running for re-election next spring and will be retiring from provincial politics after a long and distinguished career that included him being selected Speaker of the House in the provincial legislature the last two terms.
“My strongest core of support during every election was from Osoyoos.The people there have always shown tremendous support for me and I have a very special place in my heart for the people of Osoyoos for all their support through the years.”
Ending months of rumour and speculation about whether he would run for re-election next May, Barisoff made it clear his decision is final and he won’t be changing his mind about retirement. He was set to retire four years ago before the 2009 provincial election, but changed his mind as there were numerous serious issues in his riding, he said.
“I’m looking forward to a little fishing, playing some golf and spending a lot more time with my grandchildren,” said Barisoff.
After serving for 18 years as an area school board trustee and running a successful trucking company out of Oliver, Barisoff made his entrance into provincial politics at age 47. He was elected following a judicial recount that was ordered by the province’s top court back in 1996.
“A judicial recount was ordered in court and I won by 27 votes over Bill Barlee … it was quite an introduction into the world of politics,” said Barisoff, who was born and raised in Oliver and has lived there his entire life.
Osoyoos had a special connection to his decision to enter into the wonderful world of politics, he said.
“I was attending a luncheon in Osoyoos as former premier Gordon Campbell was speaking there,” he said. “I was duly impressed and I got the opportunity to speak to him at that luncheon … and much to my surprise he called me four or five months later and told me he was impressed with me and thought I should forward my name to run for the Boundary-Similkameen Liberal nomination.
“The rest, as they say, is history. I talked it over with my wife and made a decision that I would give it a try. I was fortunate enough to get elected and I’ve been at it ever since. I will never forget that day in Osoyoos, because that’s how I got to meet Mr. Campbell and he’s the man who convinced me to try my hand at politics.”
At age 63, Barisoff said he will be leaving the political arena without a single regret.
“I’ve had a wonderful career in politics and thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “You don’t win every battle and there are some tough moments, but overall I’m very pleased with what I’ve managed to accomplish and will have so many fond memories. It has been a wonderful career. I have enjoyed a great career as an MLA and Speaker of the House and I know I will certainly miss it, while also looking forward to new adventures in my life.”
Although riding boundaries have changed since he was first elected in 1996, Barisoff has held the South Okanagan provincial riding since 1996. He was re-elected by solid margins during provincial elections in 2001, 2005 and 2009.
Barisoff served as Minister of Provincial Revenue and Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection before taking over as Speaker of the House in 2005, a position he still holds to this day.
Being asked to be the Speaker of the House has been one of his proudest achievements, he said.
Ken Kowalski, who was the Speaker of the House in the Alberta legislature for many years, became a good friend and mentor and taught him a great deal about the position, said Barisoff.
Barisoff was also a volunteer firefighter in Oliver for over 25 years and sat on the Okanagan Labour Relations Council. He was also chair of the Oliver Recreation Committee for one year.
He and his wife Edna have three sons – Glen, Michael and Darren.
Two good candidates have already come forward to run for the Penticton riding in the next provincial election, with two or three more qualified candidates expected to join the race, he said.