Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder won’t run in next election

Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder — who a decade ago traded in her Birkenstocks for high heels to work on Parliament Hill — will not seek re-election.

The NDP critic for aboriginal affairs announced Thursday that she had made the “gut-wrenching” decision not to run in the next general election, expected in the fall of 2015.

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Crowder, 61, said the decision was a personal one based on her age, the demanding schedule — working 60 hours a week, with few days off — and a desire to spend more time with family, including a son and grandchildren in Manhattan and her 82-year-old mother in Ottawa.

Crowder said she has no plans to run for municipal or provincial office — ruling out a run for the leadership of the B.C. NDP.

It is more likely she would return to work as a consultant and volunteer, she said.

“I can see there is tons of work left to be done,” Crowder said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m abandoning people so I’ve said to people I may be leaving this job but I don’t plan on retiring.”

Health is not a concern, she said. “I’m as healthy as a horse.”

University of Victoria professor emeritus Norman Ruff was surprised by the news, saying it’s sad to see politicians of Crowder’s quality leave office.

“She’s an extremely effective MP,” Ruff said. “It’s a loss to the NDP caucus in Ottawa. She is so sharp and particularly good as a First Nations critic.”

Crowder, who was born in Quebec, entered politics at a time when the NDP caucus was led by Jack Layton and had only 19 members. She was first elected in Nanaimo-Cowichan riding in 2004, handily winning the seat, which had been held by Conservative Reed Elley.

In 2008, she won again, even after Elley re-entered politics in an attempt to win back the riding.

Under new federal election boundaries, Nanaimo will be united as a single Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, including Lantzville.

It’s not unusual for politicians in ridings that change boundaries to reconsider running given the expense and time involved in reorganizing and making new contacts.

Conservative Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney told reporters in October that he would not run again, and said the reorganization of the riding was a deciding factor.

The boundary change didn’t influence Crowder’s decision, but started the decision-making process, she said.

“The next election in 2015 is going to be more of an open season … obviously for the nomination and for the actual election,” Ruff said.

Crowder, the first woman to represent Nanaimo-Cowichan, said she will continue to encourage women to get involved with and stay in politics. Before her federal post, Crowder served as a North Cowichan councillor.

As Aboriginal Affairs critic, Crowder has seen two of her motions passed unanimously in the House of Commons: Jordan’s Principle, named after a Manitoba boy who died in hospital in 2005 as governments argued over who should pay for home-care services (the principle says care for the child first and worry about the money later); and the declaration of June as National Aboriginal History Month, recognizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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