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2 more prominent Conservatives step away from expected cabinet shuffle

Two more senior Conservatives have taken themselves out of contention as Prime Minister Stephen Harper mulls a cabinet shuffle.

Sen. Marjory LeBreton announced she will step down as government leader in the Senate and Calgary MP Diane Ablonczy said she won’t run again in 2015 after two decades in the Commons.

LeBreton is a full-fledged minister, while Ablonczy is minister of state for foreign affairs.

Harper has asked his caucus to let him know their re-election plans as he considers who to assign to the cabinet table.

LeBreton would have to retire from the Senate in two years anyway, as she hits the retirement age of 75. She will stay on until then as a Conservative senator for Ontario.

“I intend to step up my efforts in support of meaningful Senate reform and also actively back the new strengthened rules we introduced regarding Senate expenses,” she said in a statement.

Harper quickly issued a statement thanking LeBreton for her services.

“From our first day in office through to today, Sen. LeBreton has contributed her wise counsel, exceptional work ethic, and unrivalled institutional knowledge, and in so doing has made a tremendous contribution to our government.”

LeBreton is a veteran political organizer who worked closely with Brian Mulroney, who named her to the Senate in 1993. She also worked as an adviser to Harper, who in 2006 brought her into his cabinet as government leader in the upper chamber.

Ablonczy was one of the original wave of Reform party MPs elected in 1993. She went though the political dust-ups that eventually led to the reborn Conservative party.

Portions of Ablonczy’s riding of Calgary Nose Hill are going to become part of a new riding, Calgary Rocky Ridge, prior to the next trip to the ballot box in 2015 prompting questions about her re-election plans.

She said she had initially intended to announce her plan next year.

“However, since some of my colleagues have recently announced that they will not seek re-election in 2015, the questions are becoming more insistent,”Ablonczy said in a statement.

“That puts me, my family and my staff in an uncomfortable position. I therefore think that, especially since others beside myself are affected, this is the appropriate time to announce that after serving 22 years I will be leaving the political arena in 2015.”

Her announcement comes two days after fellow Alberta MP Ted Menzies declared he would not be running in the next election.

The timing of the forthcoming cabinet shuffle remains unclear, but it’s expected to take place within the next few weeks.