Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg is retiring from politics, the Conservative party said Thursday just days before an expected election call.Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn and Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson will also not seek re-election, the party said in a statement.
Emerson and Hearn — who faced difficult electoral fights — had not been expected to run again but Solberg’s departure came as a surprise. The jovial and wise-cracking minister was a party stalwart in a safe riding, and had been an outspoken, effective finance critic while in opposition. This year, Solberg spear-headed a review of the Canada Student Loan Program, which had been criticized heavily in news reports, and announced a change to income contingent loan repayment.
“All three of these ministers have served Canadians with distinction,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for all of these men and wish both them and their families all the best with whatever they choose to do outside of politics.”
Solberg said in an interview Thursday that he had long considered quitting politics, and was dissuaded from leaving before the 2004 campaign during a chat with then-opposition leader Harper. Solberg said he has a tantalizing job offer, which he would not describe, and no longer has the fire in the belly required to sustain another three or four years of the hectic pace on Parliament Hill.
“I called the prime minister last week,” said Solberg, who was elected in the first wave of Reform MPs in 1993. “But I’d been thinking about it for years.”
Those who knew the loquacious Solberg in his days as an opposition MP were surprised when he, too, went largely silent as a member of Harper’s tightly scripted and speech-averse government.
But Solberg insists his departure was not prompted by an aversion to Harper’s brand of discipline. “Nobody likes to be constrained,” he said. “But it would be inaccurate to describe that as the reason.”
-with a report from CP
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