I am announcing today that, effective August 31st; I will be resigning as the Member of Parliament for Victoria. I want to explain the reasons that led me to this announcement, and then reflect about my experience in federal politics since January 2006.
A year ago yesterday, my dear friend and leader Jack Layton passed away. As it did for Tom, for our caucus and for all Canadians, his loss affected me deeply. It made me reflect on the fragility of life and the need to make the most of each day we have left.
This spring, my doctor gave me a health warning. After I considered these facts over the summer, I realized that I can’t continue to represent my constituents to the standards that they have come to expect nor indeed to my own standards. Hence my announcement today.
I want to thank my leader, Tom Mulcair, for travelling to Victoria to join me for this news conference. Tom has been doing an exceptional job as our new Leader. I note in particular Tom’s principled stance on sustainability and polluter-pay.. Canadians from all regions are responding to Tom’s positive message and focus on substance, rather than scandal.
I’m disappointed that I cannot continue to work on the problems, the issues that my constituents want me to work on. I thank you for re-electing me three times. It has been a privilege representing you in Ottawa.
I have lobbied hard to ensure Victoria gets our fair share of federal infrastructure projects. Since 2006, Victoria has seen record levels of federal funding for important projects like the Johnson Street Bridge, some Univ projects and most recently sewage treatment. While I realize some of these initiatives are controversial in the community, I think we can all agree that local taxpayers should not bear the full cost of building them.
While I have worked with the government to secure funding for local priorities, I also stood with the community against the proposed mega-marina in the Inner Harbour As MP, I hosted town halls on the omnibus budget bill, the regressive crime legislation, food security, plus annual town halls on budget consultations. We always tried to balance our strong criticism of the government with positive alternatives; proposition as well as opposition, as Jack Layton used to say.
As I prepare to leave politics, I want to speak to you, my constituents about an issue so many have raised with me in the last year, the changes that are occurring in Canada under the Harper’s Conservatives. Many of you have told me you no longer recognize Canada as a voice for peace, justice and sustainability in the world. Many have wondered what can be done to stop a majority government.
Clearly change will occur- whether positive or negative. But the key is to work for the change we want. An informed and engaged electorate in unbeatable.
- Look at the way the Enbridge Project is evolving. At the beginning, Harper government called those opposed it radicals and extremists. But when it became clear the majority of British Columbians would be radicals and extremists, Harper had to back peddle and change his language- but it is the power of the electorate that has forced this change. So I encourage you to use the muscle and the brain of democracy to work for the changes we want ,to make sure that change comes from the electorate, not just from an ideology.
I have had the privilege of serving as Deputy Speaker over the last year, and in that capacity as well as my previous roles, I have always strived to set a civil and constructive tone in debate. My work to maintain mutual respect among MPs in a hyper-partisan environment has not always been successful ; but for me, it was about protecting our democratic institutions from the erosion of overly divisive politics. I’ve heard from many of my constituents that they really value these efforts to bring civility to federal politics and I know others have it made it their goal.
The real work of a local elected official happens in the constituency office. My staff handled so many cases of immigration issues, passport delays, justice for veterans, IRS tax harassment of dual US citizens living in Canada, and numerous other casework issues. I want to recognize the work of Hilary Stead, Donna Forbes, Dominique Myre and Alex Dearham and all the current and previous staff members and volunteers who have helped me in Victoria and Ottawa since 2006.
Being elected 3 times in just over 5 years takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I want to thank every single person who voted for me, donated money and worked on my campaigns, whether as paid staff or as a volunteer. Our local Victoria federal NDP association is a strong and committed crew, and I always knew I could count on a strong ground game and base of support in every campaign. I want to thank my good friend and Victoria NDP president, Erik Kaye, along with all the other Executive members past as present, for their volunteer labour and commitment to the party at the local level.
I look forward to an exciting NDP nomination and by-election in Victoria in the coming months. While I will be neutral in the nomination process, I will campaign as my health allows for the NDP candidate in the coming by-election and I am confident we can keep this riding NDP if we all work as hard as we have in the last few campaigns.
In closing, I want to thank my family for their love and support as I experienced the highs and lows of elected politics over the last 13 years, the first half as a city councillor and the 2nd half as a Member of Parliament.
I got into politics to help make a better world for my children and grandchildren. Now, it’s time for me to devote myself full-time to my family and to seeing my grandchildren grow up. Once again, I want to thank the people of Victoria for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Member of Parliament.