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Suzuki denies rumours of federal election run in Harper’s Calgary riding

Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki is seen in this file photo in Vancouver, British Columbia June 4, 2012.

ANDY CLARK/REUTERS

It was a little idea of David Suzuki's that almost launched a political movement.

Its goal would have been to make climate change a hot campaign issue by challenging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some of his top ministers in their home ridings.

But just as the idea started to take root, the well-known broadcaster gave his head a shake and set aside the temptation of running for office.

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"Absolutely untrue," he said when asked about a persistent rumour he has been recruited by the NDP, Liberal, or Green parties to run in the coming federal election in Mr. Harper's Calgary Southwest riding.

For a brief period, however, he and others, including former United Nations ambassador Stephen Lewis, did think about it.

"The thing that has been very, very frustrating as a citizen is that the Prime Minister has not said a word [about global warming]. He won't even let the words 'climate change' pass his lips," Mr. Suzuki said in an interview. "So I woke up one morning after I'd had a good night's sleep and I suddenly said: 'I gotta run against Harper in his riding.'"

He kicked the idea around.

"And everybody I talked to loved the idea, just thought it was great because it would be a way of spooking [Mr. Harper] and making him stay close to home and answer some of the [environmental] questions," said Mr. Suzuki.

"But of course I couldn't possibly do it because I would never go before the electorate and ask them to vote for me when I had no intention of serving if I were elected."

Mr. Suzuki, host of The Nature of Things, a CBC show that last fall drew six million Canadian viewers, said he'd never give up his TV pulpit for a political job.

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"The Nature of Things has been my platform, my opportunity to get a lot of ideas out there. That has always been my top

Mr. Suzuki said the rumour about him running can probably be traced to a shout-out he got from Mr. Lewis in October, when the former Ontario NDP leader joined him on stage during a cross-country speaking tour.

"What happened on the Blue Dot Tour, I happened to mention my little idea to Stephen Lewis, and Stephen goes in front of this audience at Massey Hall and says 'Suzuki just told me about his idea of running against Harper,' and then said, 'If he does, I'll run against Baird' [Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Conservative MP for Ottawa West-Nepean]. And the audience went absolutely berserk. I mean they just blew the roof off Massey Hall," said Mr. Suzuki.

Mr. Suzuki also mused about his idea to David Macdonald, a United Church minister and former Progressive Conservative MP and cabinet minister who switched parties and ran unsuccessfully for the NDP in Toronto Centre-Rosedale in 1997.

"I met him and just told him this story about me and Stephen Lewis, and he said right away 'If you two run, I'll run against Kenney [Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development, the Conservative MP for Calgary Southeast]."

Mr. Suzuki said he realized he might have started a party. But he is 78, Mr. Lewis, 77 and Mr. Macdonald, 79.

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"My chance has passed by," he said with a laugh. "I'm way too old for that."

Mr. Lewis said the roar of approval he heard at Massey Hall confirmed to him both "the depth of anti-Harper sentiment in Canada," and Mr. Suzuki's enduring popularity.

"David would be a formidable candidate anywhere in Canada for any party. He's rightly revered across the country," he said in an interview Thursday.

He added that Mr. Suzuki doesn't have to run, because "in a way David has already defeated Harper … the Keystone pipeline will not be built, the pipelines through Western Canada will not happen. The aboriginal lands will not be violated…

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