A few hours after we learned that Stockwell Day will not run in the general election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tells us (below) that Chuck Strahl (left), the Transport and Infrastructure Minister, and Vancouver-area MP John Cummins have also decided not to seek re-election. All of these announcements come as Parliament Hill is at about DefCon 1 so far as a spring election is concerned. The practical effect of the resignations of Day, Strahl, and Cummins is that the ridings associations in those areas have about two weeks to find a candidate – just in case.
Should we be surprised that any of these men are resigning? No. They have all three had long careers in Ottawa. Day is 60. Cummins turns 69 today. Strahl is 54 and living with an incurable and rare form of lung cancer that has been — thank heavens — largely dormant since its initial discovery in 2005.
Cummins and Strahl are also party of the infamous/famous “Class of 93″, the term used to describe that first wave of Reform MPs that washed up on Parliament’s shore after Deb Grey had established them all a beachhead. It’s now been more than 17 years since that 1993 election and many from that group have already bid adieu. Jay Hill said so long last fall. Jim Abbott, another BC MP from the class of 1993 still in the House, had already indicated he won’t run. Liberal MP Keith Martin first came to Parliament as a Reformer in 1993 but then switched sides. Martin is also retiring at the end of this Parliament. Monte Solberg, one of Strahl’s best friends, was the big name among several Class of 1993 alumni who packed it in before the 1993 election.
There are still a few MPs, though, in the Conservative caucus to carry that torch that Reformers first rode into town with. They include Harper himself (though he would resign during his first term as MP and not come back to the Commons until 2002), Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan (he lost in the 2006 election but came back in 2008), and MPs Leon Benoit, Garry Breitkreuz, and Dick Harris,..
For the Conservative Party of Canada and its supporters, the departure of Strahl, Cummins, et al are part of a significant generational change as those MPs who fought those early battles as Reformers, Canadian Alliance MPs and then through the mergers of the parties of the right into government move on and those early battles fade back into history. Here’s the PM statement:
“I would like to thank Ministers Chuck Strahl and Stockwell Day, as well as Member of Parliament, John Cummins for their extraordinary dedication to public service throughout the years. I look forward to working with them in the best interest of Canada until the end of their mandate.
“They have served Canadians and their constituents with distinction.
“Stockwell has an outstanding record of achievement throughout his time in Parliament. Since his debut in public service in 1986, as a Member in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Stockwell’s leadership has inspired all of us. From his role as Leader of the Official Opposition in 2000, to his success in several ministerial positions, Stockwell is respected and admired by all of his colleagues, his constituents and Canadians across the country.
“Since first elected to Parliament in 1993, Chuck has tackled each of his roles with passion and enthusiasm, and with tremendous achievement. Throughout his various ministerial positions, Chuck has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Canadians.
“John has been a dedicated member of Parliament since 1993. Throughout this time, he has made an important contribution to Parliament, to our party and, in the last five years, our Government. He has earned enormous respect for his work on behalf of his constituents and all Canadians.
“I am both honoured and grateful to have worked with Stockwell, Chuck and John.
“Laureen joins me in expressing our gratitude, and wishing them and their families the very best in their future endeavours.”