BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
On June 11, our local Senator, Richard Neufeld, gave his farewell speech to the Senate after over 10 years of service. His 75th birthday, the mandatory retirement age in the Senate, will be in November, before the first sitting of a new Parliament begins following the federal election.
The next morning, I was honoured to host a breakfast with some of our caucus colleagues and thank him for his decades of support and service to our region. Many may not know how instrumental Richard was in the development of natural gas in British Columbia and he has continued to work tirelessly on the issues surrounding the energy sector and the responsible development of our natural resources since his appointment to the Senate in 2009.
He has called northeastern British Columbia home since the age of 15 and has worked his whole life to do what’s best for our communities. Richard started working for Tompkins Contracting in 1961 in Fort St. John and in 1968 purchased his first truck which he then leased to the company as an owner/operator. In 1972, he moved to Fort Nelson to manage the Tompkins Contracting branch there. In 1978, he started his own Petro Canada bulk fuel business in Fort Nelson, which he owned until 1991. He also served on Fort Nelson’s town council, including five years as mayor.
As a provincial Member of the Legislative Assembly, he was the longest serving Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in B.C.’s history. As minister, he introduced the province’s first two energy plans designed to invigorate the energy sector. It is my understanding that both of these plans are still in place today.
I’ve known Richard since he was our local Member of Legislative Assembly and have enjoyed working with him as your Member of Parliament and in my role as Chair of the BC/Yukon Conservative Caucus. During that time, I have gained an even greater respect for his dedication, humility, and most of all, his sincerity. Richard summed it up perfectly in his farewell speech:
“To my kids, I hope you know that every decision, policy, proposal or vote I ever made was always with you in mind. I became a politician because I wanted, in some small way, to make our province and country a better place for you and future generations.”
While we’re all sad to see Richard go, I have no doubt he will continue to be as dedicated to our region as he’s been throughout his career. His wisdom, experience and friendship have been much appreciated by all of us in B.C. Caucus. We’ve dealt with many complex issues over the last eight years and I can’t thank him enough for his dedication to and hard work for our region, province and country.