Victoria MP Murray Rankin took a break from one of his busiest weeks ever in Ottawa to announce that he will not run in this year’s federal election.
The NDP’s justice critic, who has played a key role in probing the SNC-Lavalin affair, said there’s never a right time to make such a decision.
“Obviously, I wasn’t taking into account in my calculation the serious constitutional crisis that we have right on us,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “But I will continue to do that [work] until I’m no longer an MP in October.”
Rankin, who was first elected in 2012, said he decided to announce his intentions now to allow for a successor to be nominated and build a profile in the community.
He noted that he’s leaving behind a strong electoral district association with money in the bank and a team of volunteers.
“So I think I can honestly look myself in the mirror and say that I’m leaving this ship in good shape,” he said.
He added that the NDP has a bit of “a spring in our step” now with new leader Jagmeet Singh winning a byelection in Burnaby South and a scandal threatening the Liberal government.
“It seemed like it was a good time for me to get on with the rest of my life,” he said.
Rankin, who last year was nominated by his peers for the title of hardest working parliamentarian, said he has no plans to take things easy.
“I want to let people in Victoria know that I take very seriously representing them,” he said. “I have in the past and that’s not going to change as I step away from the election.
“In an ironic way, I hope I can work harder on some of the issues now because I won’t be involved in knocking on thousands of doors and doing all-candidates meetings.”
Among other things, Rankin said he’ll keep pushing the federal government for money to expand the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. “The province stepped up, the private sector stepped up, and I’m trying desperately hard to get the federal government to contribute.”
Among the highlights of his career in Ottawa, Rankin cited his role advising government on the legalization of medical assistance in dying and sitting on parliament’s new intelligence and national security oversight committee. He also pointed to his role opposing the Enbridge pipeline.
Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said he’s known and admired Rankin for a long time.
“Speaking non-partisanly, I think he’s been incredibly effective,” he said. “For someone from Vancouver Island, it’s often a challenge, particularly in an opposition party, to have a profile. But given his hard work and being bilingual and his legal training, he really rose up the ranks of the NDP and provided some real leadership there.”
Rankin joins a growing list of NDP incumbents who have announced they will not seek re-election this year. But Rankin said his decision had nothing to do with any concerns about Singh as leader.
“Not at all,” he said. “This was the time for me to step away and I would have done it if it had been any leader.”
He predicted Singh’s profile will grow now that he’s won a seat in the House of Commons. “Now that he’s right in the centre of things, I think people are going to see that he’s a really quality person and is a good leader.”
As for who will step forward to seek the NDP nomination in the Victoria riding, Rankin wasn’t about to speculate on Thursday.
“I think that there are going to be some really great candidates coming forward,” he said.
“I think a lot of young people have really taken to our leader, Jagmeet Singh; there’s a real dynamism there. That’s why I feel like it’s a good time to go.”
In the years ahead, Rankin plans to devote his time to working on reconciliation with First Nations. “Aside from climate change, I think reconciliation is one of the key challenges of our time.”
A lawyer specializing in environmental and public law before becoming an MP, Rankin was recently appointed by the B.C. government as its representative in a reconciliation process with Wet’suwet’en heriditary chiefs.
“I think it’s an important assignment,” he said. “I’ll be working on behalf of the provincial government. I’m not getting paid for this. I’m simply going to do this because I’m committed to doing it.”
At an age when many people retire and hit the golf course, Rankin, 69, said he has no plans to slow down.
“From binners to billionaires, I have met people all across our community, in all walks of life,” he said.
“This job makes you — requires you — to get to know your community like no other position. It’s just a remarkable community. So you know what? I want to keep growing from that, not simply going and retiring to the golf course. That’s not me.”