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Jane Taber

Another long-serving MP eyes a return home Add to ...

Maurizio Bevilacqua is expected to announce soon that he is leaving federal politics to run for mayor of Vaughan, the Ontario city he has represented as a Liberal MP for 22 years.

Sources say the veteran MP, who has sat in opposition, government and at the cabinet table, is "seriously considering" the move and has begun preliminary work on a bid.

He has found, according to a source close to the MP, a strong view for change in his city; he is also being pushed by some supporters to run.

Mr. Bevilacqua was 28 years old when he was first elected in 1988; it's expected he'll announce his intentions around June 1, his 50th birthday.

In doing so, Mr. Bevilacqua will be among those federal and provincial politicians who are setting a trend - leaving a seemingly more powerful and prestigious venue for the local council chamber.

NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis resigned her Winnipeg seat yesterday. A veteran of 13 years in federal politics, she is expected to make a bid for mayor of Winnipeg.

"I'm ... intrigued by municipal politics and see the city fast becoming a key level of government in responding to threats/challenges to democratic values, environmental concerns, and quality of life," she said Friday.

There are rumours, too, that long-time Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer may run for Halifax mayor.

What is the attraction?

"It gives you an opportunity to help steer the ship as opposed to rowing the boat," said Jim Watson, who recently left his cabinet post in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario government to run for mayor of Ottawa.

Mr. Watson's colleague George Smitherman did the same thing and is campaigning in Toronto's mayoral race.

Mr. Watson, meanwhile, knows of what he speaks; he was Ottawa mayor from 1997 to 2000, although that was before amalgamation.

Out campaigning in Ottawa now, he said he is often asked why he left provincial politics to seek the top city job. Over the past decade, Mr. Watson said, more responsibility has been given to municipal governments.

"We've created almost these city states around the country where Toronto's budget is bigger than three or four provinces and Ottawa's budget is bigger than a couple of provinces," he said.

The municipal venue, he said, gives you "a lot more freedom to move forward on your own agenda as opposed to someone else's. … You are not restricted with party discipline and cabinet solidarity … you can actually put forward your own plan and your own vision for the city."

Mr. Bevilacqua isn't saying anything about his plans right now. But sources say that part of his motivation to return to his home is to try to clean things up.

Once known as the "City Above Toronto", Vaughan is now being mocked as the "City Above the Law."

That is because it has been bogged down by scandal. Mayor Linda Jackson, who is planning to run re-election, is facing charges under the Municipal Elections Act for campaign finance irregularities.

Mr. Bevilacqua is a consensus-building MP with credibility and loads of experience. Well-liked on both sides of the chamber, he recently had dinner with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and as the Immigration critic, is regularly briefed by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

He was Jean Chrétien's junior finance minister, and he knows how to run a committee, having served for several years as the chair of the all-party Commons Finance committee.

That was when he was in government; sitting on the opposition benches, however, can be limiting for someone who has ideas and is public-service minded.

And if this isn't a date with destiny - the Oct. 25 municipal election is 17 years to the day that Mr. Bevilacqua earned the most votes - 71,223 - of any MP in Canadian history when the Chrétien Liberals won their first majority government.

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