Yorkton-Melville’s long-serving MP Garry Breitkreuz will not seek reelection in 2015.
The seven-term MP made the announcement in the House of Commons Monday.
“For the past 20 years, I have had the sincere honour and privilege of representing the constituents of Yorkton-Melville, in east central Saskatchewan,” Breitkreuz said. “The experience has been both challenging and rewarding. I appreciate those who trusted me with the responsibility of working on the nation’s business in Parliament.”
The 68-year-old former RCMP officer and school principal first went to Ottawa in 1993, part of Preston Manning’s Reform Party sweep of the west that made the fledgling populist party the Official Opposition.
“One of the reasons I got into politics was because I saw government spending spiraling out of control—taxes and interest on the debt were becoming a huge burden that would ultimately be downloaded onto our children and grandchildren,” Breitkreuz said. “I could not sit back and do nothing.”
In that 1993 election, the novice politician narrowly unseated Lorne Nystrom who had held the riding (mostly by massive majorities) since it was created in 1968.
The win by Reform knocked the Progressive Conservative candidate, traditionally second place to Nystrom, back into a dismal fourth place finish. Breitkreuz won under the Reform banner again in 1997, this time with a large majority. In 2000, after Reform morphed into the Canadian Alliance, the then two-time MP continued to increase his margin of victory as he did in 2004 as a Conservative Party candidate after the merger of the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives.
In the 2011 election, which finally gave Stephen Harper his coveted majority, Breitkreuz trounced all comers doubling the votes of the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates combined.
Although rumours of his pending retirement have abounded in the current term, Breitkreuz maintained at least until Christmas 2013 that he was planning to seek an eighth term.
Nevertheless, local reaction to the news was not one of surprise.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Yorkton Mayor Bob Maloney. “Garry’s been at it for some time and you can only do that job for so long.”
Over 20 years, Breitkreuz has been involved in many House of Commons standing committees and has fought for social conservative causes such as property rights, parental rights and responsibilities and pro-life matters.
His greatest claim to fame, though, was his role in dismantling the infamous long-gun registry, for which he has received numerous awards.
He was also always a champion of what he calls “heritage activities,” which led him to create the Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus in 2006.
“I’ve hunted and fished with Conservatives, Liberals, NDPers, and Greens who love to get into the outdoors,” noted Breitkreuz. “The route to future legislation that will protect and maintain our rights is through elected members of all political stripes. I hope to see this caucus continue long after I leave Ottawa and will work toward that goal. I am proud of my involvement in these and other national and local issues as a Member of Parliament and as a member of the Conservative team, however, now it is time for me to begin preparations to leave public office, and I look forward to having more time to spend with my wife, Lydia, my children and grandchildren.”
Up until now, there has been very little speculation about who might run for the Conservatives, but one name that has come up is James Wilson, the former mayor of Yorkton and current city councillor.
Wilson though, is not ready to discuss whether he will seek the nomination although he didn’t rule it out either.
“I won’t confirm anything,” he said.