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Influential child advocate Turpel-Lafond declines B.C. NDP leadership bid

British Columbia’s child and youth advocate says she will stay out of the B.C. NDP leadership race despite calls to get into the competition to be the next leader of the opposition party.

Chad Hipolito/THE CANADIAN PRESS

British Columbia's child and youth advocate says she will stay out of the B.C. NDP leadership race despite calls to get into the competition to be the next leader of the opposition party.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said in an interview Thursday that people have been urging her to run, and not for the first time – both the provincial New Democrats and Liberals have sought her out as a candidate in past elections since she arrived in B.C. in 2006, she said.

Throughout her time in the province, she has been a forceful advocate, pushing the Liberal government to do more to protect children. And there is plenty more to recommend her as a candidate: The Manitoba native and member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is a graduate of Harvard Law School and is on leave from a post as a judge in the Saskatchewan Provincial Court.

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But electoral politics? Not for her.

"The retail side of politics," she said, "of promoting yourself and making yourself sellable as a product to the public is something that is very different than where my heart and mind is occupied on a daily basis, which is actually serving people and making their lives practically better."

Of the chatter around her seeking the NDP leadership, she said, "It's a little bit entertaining. It's flattering, I guess. But I am very strictly nonpartisan."

Members of the B.C. NDP caucus and NDP MPs from the province have been considering their chances in a leadership race, which was launched last week when Leader Adrian Dix announced he would step down once the party chooses a successor in 2014.

His announcement came after the NDP lost the recent provincial election despite significant polling leads over the Liberals, who captured a fourth term through a jobs-focused campaign that also featured tough attacks on Mr. Dix. There's an expectation that caucus outsiders will join the race to be the next leader – thus the speculation around Ms. Turpel-Lafond, a high-profile critic of the government.

However, Ms. Turpel-Lafond noted her public-policy expertise is restricted to her particular area of interest – children. "It's a big province with lots of issues and I work in one domain," she said. "Hubris is a terrible fault that one should not give themselves over to because it will not end well."

While saying she respects politics as an "honourable profession and extremely valuable in our society," she stressed that she did not have what it takes to address society's problems from a political perch. She is, however, concerned that youth are not engaged in politics and that a "lost generation" of young people who will not have equal economic opportunity.

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"I have a pretty big job at the moment," she said, "and I love the job."

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