Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Chuck Strahl brought down the curtain Saturday on a long and remarkable political career.
“There’s no particular reason, I’ve just done my time,” Strahl told The Progress Saturday morning, following his decision not to run for re-election.
A former logger, Strahl was first elected 17 years ago in 1993 under the Reform Party banner.
He quickly earned a reputation as an affable and “decent” politician, but also as an effective and popular one, winning each subsequent re-election in the riding by wide and comfortable margins.
Touted at one point as a rival of Stephen Harper’s for leadership of the new Conservative Party, he eventually stepped aside, yet was still entrusted by the new prime minister with several high-profile cabinet positions, including Indian Affairs.
This respect came even after Strahl had earlier led a group of dissident Reform Party MPs who sat as an independent caucus in parliament, talking with former Prime Minister Joe Clark about a conservative alliance.
But eventually a transformed Reform Party merged with the former Progressive Conservatives to form the new Conservative Party under Harper.
Strahl told The Progress that the lung cancer he was diagnosed with in 2005 had nothing to do “thank goodness” with his decision to leave politics.
In fact, he added, he was encouraged when Prime Minister Harper told him there was no reason, given his past work performance, for him not to remain in the cabinet as the new transportation minister following a recent cabinet shuffle.
Strahl is not resigning, so he will continue as MP for the riding and as the transportation minister until the next federal election is called.
Strahl said he came into politics “highly-motivated” and still enjoys the job, “but the party’s over.”
He said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Deb, their four children and ten grandchildren.
“I vowed I would leave politics one day with the one thing that mattered most when I entered into it – the love and respect of those closest to me,” Strahl said in a statement.
“Thanks to Deb (mostly) and the rest of the family, that’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s my life’s greatest accomplishment.”
Fellow Conservative MPs John Cummins (Delta-Richmond East) and Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla) also announced Saturday that they will not seek re-election.
Political pundits have described the departure of the trio of veteran B.C. politicians as “clearing the deck” for a more Ontario-centric party in anticipation of an election that could come by the end of the month.