WINNIPEG – Myrna Driedger, the speaker of the Manitoba legislature and one of the chamber’s longest-serving members, announced Wednesday she will not seek another term in the election scheduled for Oct. 3.
Driedger is the eighth Progressive Conservative to announce plans to leave politics in recent months as the Tories continue to lag behind the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls.
“I am genuinely thankful for my journey in public life and look forward to what the next chapter will bring,” Driedger said in a statement on her website.
“I also look forward to more time with my family, especially my two young granddaughters.”
Driedger has represented an area of western Winnipeg since 1998. She served as health critic while in Opposition and was chosen as speaker after the Tories swept the NDP from power in 2016.
Her announcement came one day after Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere announced he would not run again for personal family reasons. Others who are not seeking another term include Cliff Cullen, the deputy premier, and Eileen Clarke, minister for municipal relations. Many of those departing are in their 60s.
One political analyst said there are a variety of reasons why politicians leave office, especially after serving multiple terms, but the growing number of Tory departures may be a sign.
“It’s hard to know what’s the point at which it’s just kind of normal turnover versus what’s the number that seems to signal that people are concerned about their re-election chances,” said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“But certainly as the number goes up, it creates the impression that people aren’t confident in their re-election chances.”
Even politicians in safe seats may not want to serve again if they feel their party is likely to be relegated to the opposition benches, Koop added.
Most of the remaining 28 Tory legislature members have committed to running again, but there are a few who have not yet publicly announced a decision.
Opinion polls for more than a year have suggested the Tories are trailing the NDP in public support, especially in Winnipeg, where most legislature seats are.
Premier Heather Stefanson was on vacation in Florida on Wednesday and unavailable for an interview.
“I want to thank my colleagues for their dedication and service to their constituents, the P.C. Party of Manitoba and all Manitobans,” she said in a written statement issued by her office.
“I was fully aware of their intentions to not seek re-election, and wanted to give them the opportunity to communicate their future plans on their own terms.”
The Tories have already nominated candidates to replace some of the departing politicians.
“Every organization needs to reinvigorate itself with new people and new ideas,” Stefanson’s statement read.
Koop said while the Tories have so far failed to turn their polling numbers around, the outcome of the fall election is not a foregone conclusion.
“As every day goes by, it gets harder and harder, but you kind of expect the numbers to tighten a bit as the election gets closer,” he said.
“A lot can happen.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2023.