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MPs who made big political comebacks

Former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien speaks in Toronto on January 21, 2014.
Remember this guy? He retired from politics in the 1980s. A few years later, he was prime minister. Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Retiring from federal politics doesn’t mean you’re gone forever. Many former members of Parliament left at some point, only to come back months or sometimes years later.

That’s what Olivia Chow is hoping for. The former Toronto MP resigned her seat in 2014 to run for mayor. After an unsuccessful municipal campaign – she came in third of the three major candidates – she’s now announced a return to the federal stage, running in the newly-redrawn riding of Spadina-Fort York.

READ MORE: Olivia Chow to re-enter federal politics as NDP candidate

Chow would be lucky to be as successful as some of these comeback kings, as many attempts to break back into the federal arena don’t go so well.

John Turner

John Turner was a prominent member of Liberal cabinets during the 1960s and 1970s, serving in the governments of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. He held posts like Solicitor General, Justice Minister, Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, and Minister of Finance before resigning from cabinet in 1975 and politics in 1976.

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Turner spent eight years working as a lawyer in Toronto before returning to politics in 1984. He aimed high: going right for the Liberal leadership, which he won. This victory made him the new Prime Minister of Canada.

He kept that position only briefly. After just a few weeks in office, he called an election, which he lost to Brian Mulroney. His prime ministership was one of Canada’s shortest: just 79 days. He remained a member of Parliament until 1993.

Jean Chretien

Jean Chretien was another Trudeau-era cabinet minister-turned-prime minister, though he had a more successful comeback than Turner.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he held portfolios like Minister of National Revenue, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice – even Deputy Prime Minister. He resigned from politics in 1986.

Of course, as anyone who’s been paying attention the last few decades knows, that didn’t last. Chretien soon returned, winning the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1990. He became Prime Minister in 1993 and lasted just over 10 years in that role.

Bob Rae

Bob Rae repeatedly switched roles in different levels of government, even different parties.

Rae started his federal career in 1978 as a member of the NDP. He remained in office until 1982, when he resigned to run for provincial office. He spent over 13 years in provincial politics, becoming premier of Ontario along the way. He then took a break from politics and returned to his law career, though it didn’t last.

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Rae returned to federal politics in 2006, when he decided to run for leadership of the Liberal party. He came in third, behind his old roommate Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion, who won that race. He returned to Ottawa in 2008 after winning a by-election. He ran again for the leadership in 2008, though he stepped aside in favour of Ignatieff.

After the Liberals’ stunning election loss under Ignatieff in 2011, Rae became interim leader of the party. He left federal politics for good in 2013.

Gilles Duceppe

Gilles Duceppe, current leader of the Bloc Quebecois, announced his political comeback this June.

Duceppe was first elected to the House of Commons in 1990. He became the Bloc’s leader in 1996 and held the position for years until the party’s crushing defeat in 2011, when he even lost his own seat.

No longer a sitting MP, Duceppe has nonetheless reclaimed the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois and is leading the party into this election. The success of his political comeback is still to be determined.