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British Columbia NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, seen in 2009, has hailed MP Libby Davies as ‘iconic.’

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The departure of high-profile NDP MP Libby Davies has opened up the key riding of Vancouver East, prompting provincial party stalwart Jenny Kwan to consider a switch to federal politics to replace Ms. Davies.

Ms. Kwan, B.C.'s first Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister, said Wednesday that supporters have asked her to seek the Vancouver East NDP nomination.

"They have made some very sound arguments to me for my consideration, so I am taking all of those considerations seriously," Ms. Kwan, who once held such provincial cabinet portfolios as municipal affairs and community development, said in an interview.

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Ms. Davies has held the riding for 17 years, continuing a decades-long trend of NDP dominance broken by a pair of Liberals who held it for a term each in the 1970s and 1990s. But the Conservatives ran second in 2011, suggesting the race to win the seat will be highly competitive when voters go to the polls in 2015.

"Any time you have a member as established as Libby leave, it can always be a bit of a game-changer," said Mike Witherly, a B.C. campaign spokesman for the Liberal Party of Canada, adding four prospective candidates – including cannabis activist Jodie Emery – have submitted their papers for review by a party committee.

Scott Lamb, a national council member for the Conservative Party of Canada, said the party has yet to pick a candidate to run in the riding.

Before all parties compete in the general election arena, though, Vancouver East is shaping up as a battleground for New Democrats with former city councillor Ellen Woodsworth also indicating in a Facebook posting that she is considering a run for the NDP nomination. A tight race seems inevitable. Ms. Davies originally won the nomination by 26 votes.

Ms. Kwan said she had no idea the opportunity would open up. "It's a lot to think about and certainly something I wasn't anticipating at all," she said.

"I am going to … evaluate all of the issues that are important to me and make a final decision, I hope, as soon as I can."

Ms. Kwan acknowledged Ms. Davies, hailed for her work on such files as safe-injection sites and the safety of sex-trade workers, will be a tough act to follow.

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"Libby is iconic," she said of the 61-year-old former city councillor, who said she was leaving because she was "a bit tired" with public service after 40 years in municipal and federal politics.

Ms. Davies is renowned in NDP circles as a strong voice for the left wing of the party. Ms. Kwan noted there has been some overlap on issues in her work as a Vancouver city councillor and in her own 18 years as a member of the legislature where she represents Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.

"So that will assist, but it will be a steep learning curve for anyone, myself included, if I am going to go in that direction and I will rely on a lot of people who can provide me, I hope, with good advice," she said.

Earlier this year, Ms. Kwan found herself in political turbulence after an audit showed she and her family benefited from lavish trips paid for by the Portland Hotel Society, which was publicly funded to provide social services to residents of the Downtown Eastside. Her ex-husband, Dan Small, was a former society executive. Ms. Kwan repaid $35,000 for two trips and took a leave of absence as MLA.

Ms. Kwan said that among the issues she is working through are family matters related to her two young children.

Rob O'Dea, the president of the NDP's electoral district association in Vancouver East, said there has been no meeting to work out the terms of the nomination process. He is aiming for such a gathering by the end of the year, he said.

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