John Slater remembered as affable, friendly leader with a passion for Osoyoos

John Slater remembered as affable, friendly leader with a passion for Osoyoos


slaterJOne of the best things that can be said about a man when he dies is “he was just a good guy” and that’s what Tom Shields will remember most about former Osoyoos mayor and town councillor John Slater.

Shields, the former mayor of Osoyoos and longtime friend and political ally of Slater, joined many others in fondly remembering Slater as a passionate public servant and friendly, affable and sociable man and politician.

Former political allies, friends and community members were shocked and saddened by Slater’s sudden death on Wednesday. Slater was 63.

“He was a mild mannered and easy going guy … he was just a good guy,” said Shields, who was elected mayor of Osoyoos in the fall of 1990 during the same municipal election where Slater joined municipal politics and earned a seat on Town of Osoyoos council.

Slater first earned a seat on town council during the 1990 municipal election. He served four terms before being elected mayor in 2002. He served two terms (six years) as mayor of Osoyoos before running for the Liberals to become the MLA for the provincial riding of Boundary-Similkameen. He was elected as an MLA in 2009.

Slater was preparing to maintain his seat in the 2013 provincial election when the provincial Liberals decided not to endorse his candidacy.

Slater quit the Liberal party weeks before the May election in 2013 and announced he would be running as an independent. However, he resigned his seat prior to the election.

Linda Larson, the former mayor of Oliver, was endorsed as the Liberal candidate and waltzed to victory in the 2013 election.

Slater announced last summer he was taking another run at municipal politics announcing his candidacy to seek a seat on town council in last November’s municipal election. He finished fifth in the voting.

After coming to Osoyoos in the early 1980s to open the former Wild Rapids waterslide park on the east side of Osoyoos, Slater became heavily involved in the community, particularly through minor sports, said Shields.

He played a key role in establishing a men’s hockey league and slo-pitch league in Osoyoos within months of moving to town and he was also a founding member of the Osoyoos Kinsman Club, said Shields.

“All of these things contributed to making this a better community because there wasn’t a lot going on back in those days,” said Shields. “Most will remember him for his political career, and I was along for the ride with him in politics, but what I will always remember most about John was his passion for this community. He loved Osoyoos.”

Former mayor Stu Wells also fondly remembered Slater as a man who was passionate about this community and someone who entered politics to try and make a positive difference to improve the quality of life for residents who live in Osoyoos.

“He spent close to 20 years on council and as mayor and that takes a real commitment,” said Wells. “He was committed to public life and he was very good at it.

“He was a natural politician. He could speak in front of large crowds very comfortably without preparation or notes. He was a great communicator who really liked serving his community.”

Slater’s personality made him very popular with local citizens as well as fellow politicians, including many who didn’t necessarily agree with all of his decisions, said Wells.

“He was just a very nice and likeable individual,” said Wells. “He was an easy guy to like and admire and fun guy to be around because he had a good sense of humour.”

Wells also pointed out that Slater became heavily involved in the community within weeks of settling in Osoyoos and opening up his waterslide business.

“He was heavily involved in coaching basketball, soccer and hockey and joining service clubs,” he said. “His kids were involved in sports and John was always around supporting them.”

One of Slater’s lasting legacies as mayor and councillor in Osoyoos was his commitment to preserving the water quality of Osoyoos Lake, said Wells.

Slater became chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and was directly involved in setting the plans to construct the Northwest Sewer Project, which was completed and opened in 2012 when Slater was an MLA, said Wells.

“Water issues and maintaining the quality of our lake was a passion for John,” he said. “He tried to do everything in his power to protect our lake.”

Wells said Slater’s legacy to the Town of Osoyoos would live on for years to come.

Current Mayor Sue McKortoff also praised Slater as a friendly and articulate man with a passion for Osoyoos.

“He was a very cheerful and positive person,” she said. “When I was in charge of the festival society for many years, I would go to John and he would call a meeting for everyone involved and help us organize things.

“That’s a tradition that carries on to this day. He would look at me and say, ‘Go Sue, you lead’ and he would make sure all the partners involved in this huge undertaking were on board and committed. He had a knack of dealing well with people.”

The fact Slater took another run to earn a seat on town council last year shows how much he enjoyed being a community leader, said McKortoff.

“It would have been very easy for him to sit back on the sidelines after such a long career in politics, but he still had that itch to serve,” she said.

McKortoff said Slater will be missed.

“Every time I saw him the last few years he would say hello and give me a big hug,” she said. “I will always remember him as a friendly and loveable guy.”

Shields said Slater became a good friend through their involvement in minor sports and he was thrilled to enter municipal politics with Slater during the 1990 election.

“Back in those days of coaching and officiating baseball and hockey, I never thought we would enter the political arena together,” he said. “I admired him as a man and politician. He never had a harsh word for anyone and was always a man showed the sunny side of his disposition at all times.”

Slater’s legacy will be his love for his children and family and passion for Osoyoos, said Shields.

“He would do anything for Osoyoos,” he said. “When you stay in political life as long as John did, you put in countless hours and not many can maintain that commitment to public life, but John did it easily and with such a great disposition.

“I will most certainly miss him and so will this town.”

Larson said the news of Slater’s sudden death was upsetting.

“He was always my friend. I could rely on him to support me in whatever committee or project I was involved in. He had a smile and a hug for everyone he met,” Larson said.

Larson noted that Slater supported the rebuild of Southern Okanagan Secondary School and helped move many projects forward during his time as MLA.

Premier Christy Clark issued the following statement regarding his death.

“I am deeply saddened to hear John Slater has passed away. John was a caucus colleague and a friend. John Slater was passionate about his home, and the people who make Osoyoos
special. That passion led to 30 years of dedicated service to the community he loved.

“But no matter what his official title was, John always thought of himself first and foremost as a farmer.”

Clark said Slater took on the challenge of laying the groundwork to modernize century-
old legislation to protect B.C.’s fresh water.

“He was very proud of the Water Sustainability Act – and for good reason.”

Throughout the Boundary-Similkameen, you can find the fruits of Slater’s hard work, including the new high school in Oliver, the new Horizon Health Centre in Osoyoos, the expanded Midway Arena, and new highway improvements
and public walkways, said Clark.

“Like everyone who knew him, I will always remember John’s quick smile,
good humour, and infectious laugh,” Clark said.


Keith Lacey

Osoyoos Times