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Jody Wilson-Raybould won't seek re-election

Last Updated Jul 8, 2021 at 1:34 pm EDT

Jody Wilson-Raybould announces that she will run as a independent in the fall election during a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, May 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has sat as an Independent since 2019 says she won't run in the next federal election

Wilson-Raybould was Canada's first Indigenous justice minister

Vancouver Granville MP has been a champion of Indigenous rights, has fought for climate change

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has announced she will not be running in the next federal election, as speculation looms that one could be held as early as this fall.

In an open letter, she says Parliament Hill has become “toxic and ineffective,” and notes her decision was not made “in order to spend more time” with family or to “focus on other challenges.”

Rather, she points to changes in our institutions of late, as well as a need to fight for what she believes in as her reasons.

“This was not an easy or quick decision to make,” she said in a letter, shared online Thursday. “It came about through long reflection on and writing about my own experiences in Ottawa, insights others have shared with me, and a growing realization of the depth of the shifts needed in our political culture.”

Wilson-Raybould is currently the independent MP for Vancouver Granville.

She was Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister. The high-profile MP was originally elected as a Liberal.

However, she has sat as an Independent since 2019. That came after she resigned from cabinet, following claims the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her to help Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

She was re-elected in the Vancouver riding as an independent that same year.

“From my seat over the last six years, I have noticed a change in Parliament, a regression,” Wilson-Raybould’s letter reads. “It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds. Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action.”

“In 2015, I ran to be the MP in our newly created riding of Vancouver Granville to drive change on the critical issues facing our community and all Canadians, including Indigenous reconciliation, climate change, social and racial justice, and building an enduring economy in a rapidly shifting world,” she continues. “Fighting for transformative change on these matters is what I was doing before becoming your MP, when I was the Regional Chief of British Columbia. And this is what I will continue to do in our community and across the country after my time as MP ends.”

She goes on to say that she will be “carrying on this work in different venues.”

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and more recently, the discovery of hundreds of Indigenous remains at former residential schools in Canada, Wilson-Raybould is calling for “transformative action,” saying there are “no excuses” and that “We must learn what else needs to be done and continue to take action individually and collectively.”

Wilson-Raybould says she plans to reveal more details about her future soon.

‘One of the more honest reasons’

Wilson-Raybould’s poignant letter outlining her reasons for not running is being described by a well-known political columnist as “effectively an indictment of the state of Canada’s politics, the state of our democracy, and the state of our parliament.”

“It was one of the more honest reasons for not running again I’ve ever seen,” said David Moscrop, a former lecturer at the University of Victoria and longtime political commentator.

He says usually, politicians cite wanting to spend more time with family or other similar reasons as being behind their decision to not run again.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould very specifically says, ‘That’s not why I’m leaving. I’m leaving because it’s a mess here, especially for women, especially for Indigenous people, especially for racialized folks.”

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Moscrop describes her announcement as “refreshing,” saying she’s right in her reasons.

Pointing to other people who have made similar points, Moscrop says the state of politics in Canada is “not a secret.”

“It’s well known, it’s also known that things seem to be getting worse. The concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office, partisan identity and toxicity, the first-past-the-post electoral system — things that Jody Wilson-Raybould cites in her letter — that are harming our democracy, that are making it worse than it has to be, that are putting us years behind where we might otherwise be. All of these things are known problems,” he told NEWS 1130, adding they’re problems that could also be addressed.

However, he says nothing is being done to change the system. He notes there is a challenge in getting people who want to bring meaningful reform to run for positions and stay in politics to address them, adding many of these people are usually “put through the meatgrinder.”

“Who wants to be a part of that? Who wants to go through that? With politics like this, you don’t want to be a part of it if you’re a good person — why would you? And yet we need those people to be there, so it presents a bit of a paradox.”

Moscrop says parties need to do more to find Indigenous candidates, as well as more women and racialized Canadians.

He describes parties as “gatekeepers” in Canada, and adds if we want to change in the composition of parliament and in policy, we need to see more people who reflect the makeup of this country in the chamber.

“We as voters and observers should hold them to account and make sure they do that. That’s one way we might get the change that we need in Canadian democracy and politics,” Moscrop explained.

On whether Wilson-Raybould’s decision will be a reckoning, particularly for the Liberal Party, Moscrop says “it should be.”

“I think for some people, it might give them pause, make them think. But the political machine runs,” he said, adding the Liberals’ main goal now is to get a majority government.

“I think for many people it won’t cause the reckoning it ought to, but I think it does contribute to subconsciousness raising as we move in that direction.”

-With files from Paul James