After 18 years as a constituency assistant in John Horgan’s MLA office, Hans Frederiksen has a lot of memories to look back on.
With Horgan now finished with his duties as an MLA, his constituency office is being packed up.
“I’ve got to say, this is the best gig I’ve had in my 57 years of working – it’s the best gig I’ve ever had, being here, and it’s been such a pleasure to know people of all stripes,” said Frederiksen, who first started volunteering in Horgan’s office after retiring as a sheriff, then started a staff position two years later.
There have been lots of people coming through the doors, first at the corner office on Goldstream Avenue and Peatt Road, and then into the constituency office’s current location on Jacklin Road. People looking for help with such issues as health care and housing - while some more disgruntled residents would drop in. One came in and wanted Horgan to fire the local council members. In his time, Frederiksen says it’s become clear to him how the misunderstood government is, especially how it works.
Constituency assistants themselves are misunderstood, he said, noting they’re not staff of a political party but rather staff to the MLA (he’s had to turn away people looking to donate to the NDP in the past).
“The interesting thing that I found is that the people that really understand our democracy here are immigrants because when they become Canadian citizens, they have to take a course and they learn all about how it works,” he said. “I think it’s our job, everybody’s job, to make sure that people understand how things work.”
There have been other interesting incidents.
“One lady comes in and she’s holding a chicken and she has a leash on it – and she says, ‘I want you to help me. I want my chicken here…’ I forget what the name of it was, ‘I want to declare it a service chicken, like a service dog.’”
As the office empties out and the phone stops ringing, Frederiksen says the feeling is bittersweet.
While Frederiksen is new to shutting down a constituency office, Lynn Osborn is an old hand at it – this is her fourth constituency office she’s worked at and seen close, from Saskatchewan to Halifax to Langford.
The pair don’t know whether they’ll be back when the new MLA is voted in. Both are involved in their community – constituency assistants have to be, noted Frederiksen – he’s a member of the Langford branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and hopes to serve on some City of Langford committees, while Osborn is a board member with a local dog rescue that helps rehouse galgos (Spanish greyhounds) and the Mary Lake Nature Conservancy.
Both speak highly of Horgan himself, noting his caring nature and sense of humour. While they were always on a first-name basis in the office, outside it was a different story.
“It’s surreal to just think that an era has ended – 18 years of service by a fantastic MLA, who’s a down-to-earth person. He’s everybody’s person, everybody’s MLA, he was everybody’s premier. He’s a very caring man and that’s why some of us have stuck with him,” he added.
When the sign above his office came down, it split into several pieces. Horgan kept the “John” piece for himself and gave Frederiksen the “H”, Osborn the “L”, and some other staff the other letters, signing the back of all of them.
“A little bit of history. So it’s kind of neat.”