Former Red Deer MP Bob Mills was honoured Monday night for his political life, his work on the environment and work for his constituents.
The event at the Capri Hotel and Convention Centre drew a few hundred colleagues, family and friends from all across Canada and even his daughter who lives in the Netherlands.
Keynote speaker Preston Manning, who founded both the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance, talked about Mills’ environmental and foreign affairs work.
Manning said Mills’ constituency was always one of the best organized — so much so that there was a contest in caucus for how strong the constituency was and Mills’ constituency always beat Manning’s.
When Mills was first in politics, serving under the Reform Party, one of his positions was foreign affairs critic. On a trip Manning and Mills took to China the embassy suggested they not bring up sensitive issues.
Mills and Manning got onto the topic of what were the regional differences in China and the two communist party members they were with started arguing about whether the cooks in Beijing were better than the cooks in Shanghai. While this was going on a public relations person from Ontario — who was with Mills and Manning — had mistakenly put his rice into the teacup instead of the rice bowl.
Mills said Canada also has regional differences.
He said there is a primitive part of the country where they don’t know the difference between a teacup and a rice bowl — it’s called Ontario. But he told the Chinese representatives he and Manning were from an sophisticated part of the country — Alberta — and they knew the difference. The Chinese representatives thought it was the funniest thing they’d heard and Mills diffused the argument.
Mills’ daughter Melinda Mills spoke about her father’s love for nature and how he passed it on to his children. He would get his children up at 5 a.m., have them go onto their stomachs and wait. Suddenly the grouse would come and do a dance. She said it made his children passionate about nature and biology.
She also spoke about her father’s “secret weapon.” Whenever he was tired or didn’t know the answer to a problem he would turn to his secret weapon — his wife Nicole.
Many others talked about how important Nicole’s contribution was during Mills’ political career.
Current Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said the evening was an opportunity for a lot of old friends to be able to talk to Bob and honour his 15 years in politics and 30 years of community service. Mills was a teacher before starting Mills Travel in 1979. In 1993, he won a seat under the Reform Party banner and in subsequent elections for the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party. Since his retirement from politics he has formed RWNM Consulting, with Plasco Energy Group among his clients.
In all he spent 5,468 days as a politician — or 14 years, 11 months and 20 days.
“People have treated me so well throughout the years and continue to treat me great. I always said that when I finished this job I didn’t want people to cross to the other side of the street. And certainly I’ve found that they don’t do that,” Mills said.
He said he was pleased he had Lisa’s Law passed, which shielded children from pedophile parents. The Lisa he worked with was there Monday night with her two daughters and she was able to thank him for the work he had done on her behalf. She had been ordered by the court to take her daughters to visit their father, who was a pedophile, in Bowden prison. The law made it so that wouldn’t happen again.