Harper-era cabinet minister Ed Fast will not seek re-election

Click to play video: 'BC United MLA Mike de Jong not seeking reelection'
BC United MLA Mike de Jong not seeking reelection
After eight elections and 30 years in the Legislature, Abbotsford-West MLA Mike de Jong won't be running for re-election in the fall. Richard Zussman reports – Feb 14, 2024

Ed Fast, the long-serving Conservative MP for the Lower Mainland riding of Abbotsford, B.C., will not seek re-election, he says, setting up what is expected to be a vigorous nomination fight that could include former B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong.

Fast, first elected to the House of Commons in 2006, served as Stephen Harper’s international trade minister. In the most recent Conservative leadership campaign, Fast co-chaired Jean Charest’s campaign and criticized eventual winner Pierre Poilievre for threatening to fire Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem. Poilievre left Fast out of his so-called “shadow cabinet” — the group of official Opposition critics — and Poilievre’s office has not assigned Fast to any House of Commons committee.

Fast, who will turn 70 next year, said in a statement it’s time to turn the leadership of the party over to a new generation.

“It’s now time for the next generation of leader to step forward and represent the residents of our community,” Fast said.

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Fast, a lawyer by training, was first elected to public office in 1985 as a school board trustee. He went on to become a city councillor before succeeding Randy White as Abbotsford’s MP in the 2006 election. He went into Harper’s cabinet after the Conservative majority win in 2011 and served four years as international trade minister, a period when he led negotiations that would lead to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with the EU and other trade arrangements with the likes of South Korea,  Colombia and Peru.

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Fast will continue to serve as MP until the next election but his decision Thursday is likely to set in motion some furious internal Conservative politics in the ridings south of the lower Fraser River.

Fast’s riding of Abbotsford, like many in B.C., is getting new boundaries effective next month that will be in place for the next federal election. The western part of the current riding of Abbotsford will become part of a new riding called Abbotsford–South Langley. The eastern part of the current Abbotsford riding becomes absorbed into Mission-Matsqui-Abbotsford. The current riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon is represented by Conservative Brad Vis, first elected in 2019 after serving as an aide to Fast.

Click to play video: 'Proposed changes to federal ridings in British Columbia'
Proposed changes to federal ridings in British Columbia

West of Abbotsford, there are currently two ridings — Cloverdale–Langley City and Langley-Aldergrove — but those two will give way to three ridings for the next election: Cloverdale–Langley City, Langley Township-Fraser Heights and the aforementioned Abbotsford-South Langley.

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The Conservatives are heavily favoured in all four of those ridings and with the party riding high in the national polls and the expectation that it could form government at the next general election, there have been and are expected to be hotly contested nomination fights.

Vis and Tako van Popta are the only two Conservative incumbents among the four ridings. The Conservative Party has refused multiple requests to release its current list of nominated candidates but it will need at least two candidates: in Cloverdale–Langley City, where the Liberal incumbent John Aldag will have a difficult time, given current polling averages, of being re-elected; and either of Langley Township–Fraser Heights or Abbotsford–South Langley, whichever riding van Popta is not running in.

The Liberal Party of Canada says Aldag is the nominated candidate in Cloverdale–Langley City, though Aldag has said he is considering moving to provincial politics and running for David Eby’s New Democrats in this year’s B.C. provincial election.

De Jong has represented an Abbotsford-area provincial riding since 1994 and currently sits in the opposition BC United caucus in the legislature in Victoria. But in February, de Jong said he would not seek re-election when B.C. goes to the polls later this year and said he was considering a move to federal politics. De Jong has not given any indication as to which federal riding he might seek to run in but Fast’s decision not to seek re-election could have an impact on his choice.

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But, because Abbotsford has long been a Conservative stronghold, it is believed to be of interest to as many as a dozen potential candidates, including de Jong.

The next federal general election is scheduled for October 2025.

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