Departing MPs reflect on leaving the Hill: ‘It doesn’t have to be like that’

Reflections from three MPs who are stepping away from politics
WATCH: NDP Fin Donnelly, Conservative Guy Lauzon and Liberal Frank Baylis join Eric Sorensen to talk about why they have decided not to run in the October election.

With Parliament adjourned for the summer, elected officials are back in their ridings and most — but not all — will spend the summer hitting the pavement and meeting with constituents whose votes they need for re-election.

But dozens of the MPs who left Parliament Hill last month did so for the very last time because they aren’t running to keep their seats.

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Eighteen Liberals and 15 Conservatives are not running again in the fall campaign.

Fourteen MPs from the NDP are also not running again — that represents one-third of the party’s current seats.

For those who made the choice not to run again, their decision is based on a number of factors.

In an interview with the West Block‘s Eric Sorensen, three of those departing members of Parliament shared their reasons for choosing to leave, ranging from wanting to spend more time with family, wanting to get back to their roots, and just simply not liking the partisan rhetoric they found on the job.

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“My wife would like to see a bit more of me, my business partner would like me to come back and help a bit more with the business, and also I was not happy with some of the things in Ottawa: the way debates take place and the lack of what I call constructive debate, maybe a lack of civility and respect too,” said Montreal-area Liberal MP Frank Baylis, who is leaving the job after one term.

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“So, all these things came together for me and I thought, maybe I’ll just take a step back.”

Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, has repeatedly urged MPs to be judicious in their choice of wording during parliamentary debates over the past four years and earlier this year, warned them that the partisanship was starting to cross a line.

Michael Wernick, former clerk of the Privy Council, also made heated remarks before the committee during the SNC-Lavalin scandal in which he warned that he was afraid “somebody is going to be shot in this country this year during the political campaign” because of inflammatory rhetoric from politicians and online.

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Baylis, 56, tried to put forward a private member’s bill this year proposing reforms to how the House of Commons operates.

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But he missed a vote that would have moved it along in June, bumping it to the bottom of the queue for debate and effectively consigning the bill to die when the writ drops, likely in early September.

Conservative MP Guy Lauzon, 74, has represented his riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry since 2004, winning by double-digit margins each time.

He also won’t be running again but said his choice comes down to wanting to spend more time with his family.

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“This is an all-consuming job, Eric, and you have to sign on for four years, so I had to think about, am I going to have the energy in four years that I do now,” Lauzon said, pointing to a wish to enjoy some time off with friends and his wife.

“It’s time to spend a little time in Florida.”

Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for Port Moody—Coquitlam, won his seat in a byelection in 2009 then held it during the 2011 Orange Wave, and ever since.

He also won’t be running again and instead, will head back to B.C. to work with the Fraser Watershed Initiative.

Donnelly, 54, said if he has learned one thing from his time in politics, it’s that there’s never enough time to get everything done.

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That’s part of why he says he’s going back to work with the Fraser Watershed Initiative, an issue he was involved in before getting elected.

“One thing that is very noted is while you’re here, it’s an honour to serve in Ottawa — however, it goes fast,” he says.

“If you have a particular passion or focus, you need to work on that fast,” Donnelly continued, adding he hopes future individuals elected follow his advice:

“While you’re there, take advantage of it.”