The MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo has announced she will not run in the next federal election.
Conservative Cathy McLeod made the announcement via a statement on Thursday (Feb. 4).
“It's certainly been an honour, privilege and pleasure to serve you over the past 12 years,” McLeod said in a statement. “As I go throughout the riding, I look at the many initiatives that we worked on together, the wonderful people I've met and, of course, in Ottawa, the opportunity to make a real difference on the national stage in terms of influencing the direction of our country.”
In an interview with KTW, McLeod said the decision was “difficult,” but noted she is looking forward to the next chapter, which she is not sure of yet. She said she will be doing something that is not “all-encompassing,” with the role of an MP being 24/7, she said.
McLeod also stated her support for party leader Erin O’Toole, who she backed in last year’s leadership race.
“As I look forward there certainly is going to be enormous challenges ahead and I believe that Erin O’Toole and his team are the only ones that are going to be able to meet those challenges,” McLeod said in her statement. “I personally will do whatever I can to make sure he does get elected.
“In the meanwhile, I want to thank the people in my riding office and in Ottawa who have done so much over the years. The party support locally and in Ottawa again who've been behind me and most of all the constituents who have had faith in me for four elections. I hope to write a few more chapters in my life before the final conclusion, and I thank you all so very much.”
Asked if she sees an election coming, McLeod said she hopes not, with the country in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty over vaccine rollout.
However, she added, with a minority government, “you never know when the next election might happen.”
McLeod said it was important to announce her intentions in order to give the riding association time to look for a next candidate. Though she did not name names, she said a number of people over the years have expressed interest in some day running.
“Right now, every party is looking for their candidate for the next election,” she said.
McLeod entered federal politics in September 2008, when the Conservative Party of Canada appointed her as candidate in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo just days before then-prime minister Stephen Harper called an election. There had been one person — Fred Bosman — declare interest in seeking the party nomination, but the party decided on appointing McLeod, citing time constraints.
The incumbent MP at the time, Conservative Betty Hinton, was not seeking re-election.
When she decided to carry the Conservative banner in the 2008 federal election, McLeod, a nurse by trade, was manager for primary health care and chronic disease for the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap region of Interior Health.
She moved to Kamloops from the Village of Pemberton in 1999, where she was a city councillor for three years and mayor from 1996 to 1999.
McLeod won the 2008 election with 46 per cent of the vote, garnering 25,209 votes, almost 6,000 more than second-place New Democrat Michael Crawford.
McLeod extended her winning margin over Crawford in the 2011 election, receiving 29,682 votes to Crawford’s 20,983.
Her tightest race was in 2015, when McLeod prevailed by about 3,000 votes over New Democrat Bill Sundhu and Liberal Steve Powrie in an election that saw Justin Trudeau’s Grits sweep to a significant majority. McLeod was elected with 24,595 votes, while Sundhu had 21,466 votes and Powrie received 21,215 votes.
McLeod was elected for a fourth time in 2019 with her largest-ever margin of victory — a 12,000-ballot separation between her and Liberal Terry Lake. The 2019 election also saw McLeod receive the most votes of any of her four campaigns, with 32,415.
McLeod said career highlights include her work as parliamentary secretary on mental health in the workplace, reducing red tape for business, her time as Indigenous shadow minister, the twinning of Highway 1 to Chase, recreational infrastructure throughout the riding and programs and services funded in partnership with communities and the province.
“Everywhere I go, I can see little things that we have worked on that have made things better for communities,” she said. “Obviously, the people and the celebrations, to be part of communities and the celebrations they hold dear has been wonderful.”
She said she hopes she balanced: her job, holding government to account and maintaining respect.
As for whether she left anything on the table, McLeod said her biggest regret, as someone who comes from a healthcare background, was government inaction on long-term care homes. She said that when the first wave hit, she spoke to as many people as she could about what was needed and the resounding answer was: money. Cash was needed for inspections, infection control, education, PPE assessments and minor renovations, McLeod said.
“That didn’t happen,” she said. “I notice now that the federal government is announcing a billion dollars, but to me it should have happened in the spring [during the first wave of the pandemic]. It didn’t happen. That’s my biggest regret.”