Ed and Katrine Conroy are seen at Katrine’s swearing-in at the BC Legislature in 2013. Photo: katrineconroy.ca

Reflecting on former Kootenay MLA Ed Conroy’s legacy

Former BC cabinet minister and Kootenay MLA Ed Conroy passed away June 26

When Ed Conroy passed away June 26, the West Kootenay lost a lifelong advocate.

Conroy served the area where he was born and raised in numerous ways. He was a towboat operator on the Arrow Lakes, school trustee and school board vice-chair, before serving in the BC legislature as the NDP MLA for Rossland-Trail for 10 years (1991-2001). He also served as the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries for BC and the Minister Responsible for Rural Development from 2000 to 2001.

Conroy has another big legacy — helping to create the Columbia Basin Trust, an organization that either directly or indirectly affects the life of every West Kootenay resident.

Former Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans and Conroy worked closely together, not just on the creation of the Trust, but in the legislature as well. The two even shared a Victoria apartment while the legislature was in session.

“Ed Conroy is the real story that you would want your children to believe politics is,” said Evans. “When he spoke in the legislature, he was speaking about land he grew up in and people he knew.

“He was the epitome of what politics should be in order for it to be a respected profession — rather than the cynicism that passes for political thought today.”

Evans tells a story about the time Conroy ran for caucus chair, despite being encouraged not to do so, winning against the candidate the leadership supported.

“It was a huge statement that we were not going to do what the boss told us,” said Evans. “We are going to choose this guy [Conroy] because he will hear us and help us hang together.

“To me, it was the people that worked there choosing the person they felt was honest and on their side.”

Evans said another thing he appreciated about Conroy was the way he would make up his own mind, and then wasn’t afraid to stand up and say what he thought.

When announcing Conroy’s passing, BC Premier John Horgan said “I’ve known Ed for 30 years and had the honour of working with him during his time as an MLA and then as a minister.

“Ed was a truly kind and decent man. He’ll be greatly missed by all those who knew him. My thoughts and support are with his wife, my friend and colleague Katrine Conroy, and their extraordinary family.”

After retiring from politics, Ed continued to live with his wife in Pass Creek where they ran a ranch breeding prize-winning Polled Hereford cattle.

Katrine Conroy has now taken up the legislature torch and has been serving as the NDP MLA for Kootenay West since 2005. She is now the BC Minister for Children and Family Development.

Evans says “In the past 30 years, there are a million things that have gotten better in the West Kootenay, and for all but four of those years, either Ed or Katrine Conroy has been in a leadership role for the area. The Conroy family has governed for an entire generation, without becoming pretentious.”

Conroy fought many health battles during his 73 years including losing a kidney to cancer, successfully battling Hepatitis C, two liver transplants and a kidney transplant, dialysis and numerous other bouts with cancer.

With that in mind, Conroy’s family is asking that people consider registering as organ donors in his memory.

RELATED: Former BC minister and MLA Ed Conroy passes away at 73



betsy.kline@castlegarnews.com

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