Good life: Still the same guy

Reed Elley - Andrew Leong
Reed Elley
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Reed Elley sits comfortably at the kitchen table of his tastefully decorated Chemainus home.

With broad shoulders and large hands, in retirement he’s more than just a shadow of the solidly built football player he was during his youth.

He looks his guest in the eye when he talks; words strung together in concise sentences that leave little doubt the man speaks what he believes.

The former two-term Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan is also an ordained pastor and his views are decidedly in line with the Old Testament.

And it’s those views for which he is arguably most remembered.

He’s taken an unpopular stance against abortion and, in fact, delivered an infamous speech about his opposition to same-sex marriage — a pair of issues that disagree with the teachings of his Baptist faith and, understandably, his own opinions.

However, the dad of eight and granddad to nine doesn’t appear to have a mean bone in his 69-year-old body.

Agree or disagree with the man’s views, they are honest and unwavering.

“I still believe the same things about abortion and same sex marriage and things like that,” he said.

“Before politics, I was active in the community and was vocal about the things I believed.”

In retrospect, Elley said he really doesn’t know if his religious views helped or hindered his political career.

“They gave me some flack because I took stands on things. I mean, why would you leave your beliefs at the door of the House of Commons? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

For the record, his stance hasn’t changed on gay marriage.

“You know,” he chuckled, “I made one speech in 1998 or 1999 when we were discussing same sex benefits in the house where I felt I needed to stand up for my beliefs and of course, after that, it was always brought up.

“I didn’t mind it being brought up, except that sometimes the debate got nasty, and I got a lot of nasty stuff on emails and in blogs.”

Elley shrugs his shoulders at the memory.

“That goes with the territory and I kinda rolled with that because if it was going to hurt me, it would have happened in the 2000 election when papers said I won in a landslide; a 12,000 vote majority.”

Elley said he believes his old school positions on the hot button topics were actually a breath of fresh air for some.

“There are a lot of quiet people in this country who are conservative — most Canadians are fairly conservative — and you won’t get them standing on the street corner talking about their beliefs, but they’ll vote for you,” he said.

Elley was first elected to Parliament in 1997 as a member of the Reform Party.  He was re-elected in 2000 under the Alliance banner and retired in 2004 as a member of the Conservative Party of B.C. After sitting out the 2004 and 2006 elections, he resurfaced in 2008, losing by about 4,000 votes to NDP candidate Jean Crowder.

“They asked me to run again in this (Nanaimo-Cowichan) riding in 2008, so I did.”

Elley believes Crowder owed her success mainly to the Liberal swing votes, but she stated earlier this year she will not run in the next election, which, of course, begs the question …

“No, I have thoughts about running again; I’m done with that,” said Elley.

“I’m almost 70 and at this point I’m quite willing to help out, sort of be an advisor in the background.”

Part of the slowdown is no doubt at least partially due to the fact Elley had a heart attack a few years back.

“I was mowing my lawn in November of 2011 and started to get terrifically tired and started getting pains in my chest and felt I was going to pass out,” he recalled.

Elley made his way to hospital in Duncan five hours later — “You know us men” — before being sent to the Royal Jubilee in Victoria.

Fortunately, there was only a small blockage that required nothing more than pills as treatment.

“It wasn’t very serious. It was a warning call.”

Even though he claims to be retired, Elley works with the B.C. Conservative Party — he’s on the board of directors for the local riding association — and is also involved federally where he chairs the Conservative nomination committee for the new federal riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

“I’m still quite involved with my church, my faith has always been very important to me,” he said.

Elley is still minister and gets called from time-to-time for advice or to seek his help in times of dire need.

“In our own family, having eight kids and four of those adopted and three of them First Nations, we’ve dealt with a lot of grief,” he said.

Part of that grief came from having a crystal-meth addicted daughter who lived on the streets of Victoria for seven years.

“It was just a terrible situation, but thank God — again — a lot of prayer and a lot of support from Christian people she got off of it. A miracle occurred and we were able to send her to Edgewood treatment centre.”

The daughter went through the treatment and she’s been clean and sober now for four years, holding down a job and living in Nanaimo.

“That’s a miracle because, boy, she was in rough shape.”

Elley also likes to spend his later years doing things he truly enjoys, activities like photography and gardening, attending Cowichan Capitals games and fishing.

However, retirement doesn’t mean the pastor will tone it down when it comes to expressing his views.

“Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions, and I’ve got lots of opinions,” he said.

“You know, I have eight kids and a whack of grandchildren and when I die I don’t want them thinking grampa got soft in his old age, that he changed his views or changed his mind, that he stopped fighting for the things he believed all his life.”

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