Disgraced B.C. MLA Reitsma seeks political redemption

A former B.C. MLA who resigned in disgrace for writing letters to newspapers under fake names hopes to revive his political career on Vancouver Island.
Former B.C. MLA Paul Reitsma is running for mayor of Parksville. (CBC)

A former B.C. MLA who resigned in disgrace for writing letters to newspapers under fake names hopes to revive his political career on Vancouver Island.

Paul Reitsma, who was forced to resign as Parksville-Qualicum MLA 13 years ago, is running to be mayor of Parksville.

In 1998, Reitsma had to admit he wrote a series of letters to the editor attacking political rivals and praising himself after an expose by the Parksville Morning Sun.

After confirmation from an RCMP handwriting expert, the newspaper exposed the fake letters with the scathing headline: "MLA Reitsma is a liar, and we can prove it."

He was kicked out of the B.C. Liberal caucus. Reitsma resigned one day before a successful recall campaign could oust him.

"What I did was utter foolishness," said Reitsma on Friday. "I guess most people do dumb things in their life. And what is important is how you overcome it, how you show you've learned from it as well and I have."

Reitsma, now 63, believes the people of Parksville have forgiven him and that they're willing to give him another chance in the November election. He says he's against high-rise waterfront development and a recent pay raise for council.

When a reporter asked Reitsma to promise there would be no more fake letters, Reitsma answered with a laugh: "I've learned my lesson. My handwriting is so bloody bad anyway."

Reitsma was the former mayor of both Parksville and Port Alberni before he entered provincial politics.

In 1997, he was caught demanding free meals on B.C. Ferries, saying he mistakenly thought they were part of MLA privileges.

Acting mayor Chris Burger, who is also running for mayor, was diplomatic on Friday about his opponent's past: "I don't want to be caught up in the drama of Paul Reitsma. I want this to be an election about the issues."

Ed Mayne stepped down as Parksville mayor in January to pursue the provincial Liberal leadership.