CLARESHOLM, Alta. – Another seat has opened up around Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet table with the news that Alberta Conservative MP and junior minister Ted Menzies won’t be running in the next federal election.
Menzies, whose current portfolio is minister of state for finance, announced Tuesday that he wants to spend more time in his home province — and that he doesn’t want to be a cabinet minister.
Menzies said he’s been travelling throughout his riding of Macleod since widespread flooding devastated the area in June and he’s been struck by what he’s seen.
His riding includes the hard-hit town of High River, Alta., where all 13,000 residents were told to evacuate during the floods.
“Witnessing the effects of the floods across southern Alberta, and the devastation of High River and other communities, I have decided that it is important for me to be here more often,” Menzies said in a statement.
“What brought me to Ottawa was a love of community and the desire to help Albertans and Canadians the best way I knew possible.”
For that reason, Menzies said, he won’t seek re-election in 2015 in his riding, but plans to continue to sit as an MP until then.
“For the next two years I will continue to do all I can for Macleod, here in the riding and in Ottawa,” he said. “Because of this decision, I have asked Prime Minister Harper not to consider my name for any future cabinet position.”
Menzies was first elected in 2004 and became Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s second-in-command in 2011.
In a statement, Flaherty thanked Menzies for his service, noting his involvement in reforms to pension legislation and consumer finance issues.
“On a personal note, he was a great and trustworthy partner who I could always count on to represent the voice of everyday Canadians,” Flaherty said.
“His contributions will be missed.”
Flaherty, who has been dealing with health issues of late, is another minister whose name has been mentioned among those who might not survive a cabinet shuffle expected later this month.
For his part, the finance minister has made it clear he’d like to stay on, though it’s unclear whether he’ll run for office again in 2015.
In advance of the shuffle, the prime minister has been quietly making inquiries as to who in his caucus intends to run in the next election and who is stepping aside.
The request by Menzies to be left out of the mix reflects one of the goals of the shake-up: to put in place a cabinet which will take the party to, and through, the next general election.
Harper posted a message to Menzies via his Twitter account on Tuesday.
“Thank you, Ted Menzies for helping to build a stronger Canada,” the post read. “Our loss is your community’s gain.”
Menzies’ announcement creates a least a second spot for Harper to fill; Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield said in June that he’s asked to be left out of the next cabinet after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Harper could also choose to appoint a new intergovernmental affairs minister.
Former minister Peter Penashue resigned in March — and lost in a subsequent byelection — after concerns emerged about his election spending. His portfolio is being handled by Transport Minister Denis Lebel.