The only independent MLA to get re-elected in modern British Columbian political history says health concerns will stop her from running for office again in this May's provincial election.
Vicki Huntington said she has decided against seeking a third term in the riding of Delta South after a series of health warnings made it clear that she needed to take a break from the taxing schedule of working as an MLA. She would not go into detail about her health concerns.
She said her difficult decision will leave a political vacuum for constituents of the semi-rural Vancouver suburb. Ms. Huntington, widely respected by colleagues from all parties, says her success and that of lone Green MLA Andrew Weaver are indications that voters are fed up with the hyper-partisan nature of politics in Victoria.
"My riding's had the highest voter turnouts for the last two elections and that's simply because it's a matter of choice," she said.
"So I just say to the people, 'look carefully at all of your candidates and think whether or not – for the sake of democracy – you need to consider a change in government.'
"It doesn't mean it has to be forever, it just means we're sort of kicking their butt and saying, 'think about what they're doing and come back with a better plan next time.'"
Norman Ruff, an associate professor emeritus at the University of Victoria who has studied B.C. politics since 1969, said Ms. Huntington's departure will be a major loss to the legislature, where she was a voice for civility.
As evidence of this, he pointed to her failed attempt last year to limit the amount of time Liberal and NDP politicians take up applauding their colleagues during Question Period.
Ms. Huntington, who had negotiated one question in the legislature a week for her and any other independent MLA, had a motion rejected that she estimated could have added another 20 minutes of debate a week.
"She calculated how much time was lost in the sycophantic applause that takes up so much time in the house and no one supported her," Dr. Ruff said.
Before becoming an MLA, she served five terms on Delta's municipal council. Before that, Ms. Huntington worked for eight years in an RCMP unit that was the precursor to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and also worked as a policy assistant to the federal minister of Indian affairs during Joe Clark's Progressive Conservative government.
During her two terms, Ms. Huntington championed the protection of B.C.'s Agricultural Land Reserve, fighting to get the government to release documents showing the scientific data and consultation behind the decision to carve the ALR into two zones, to allow more non-farm use of agricultural land in most parts of the province.
After 707 days, Ms. Huntington finally received 551 pages of internal memos and reports.
"And there was nothing in those pages, nothing that indicated any of the decisions were based on any scientific or financial analysis at all," she told The Globe and Mail last year.
She said she hopes her work as an MLA leads B.C. to rethink how it approaches the environment.
"I want to see this province balance its regard for the economy and the environment," she said. "I want to see this province recognize there's enormous value in maintaining the Agricultural Land Reserve, committing yourself to it."
Ms. Huntington won the riding in 2009, beating star Liberal candidate, and the province's attorney-general, Wally Oppal by 32 votes.
Mr. Oppal said Wednesday: "I commend her for what she did, she gave eight years of her life to public service.
"Her task was almost impossible because as an independent you really aren't in a position to accomplish anything in a concrete way," he said.
"She did a good job under very difficult circumstances."
The Liberals have chosen Delta Councillor Ian Paton as their candidate to replace Ms. Huntington, while the NDP and Green Party have not yet announced who will run for them in May.