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A high-profile New Democratic Party MP is stepping down to seek a seat in the May 12 B.C. election, giving the minority Conservative government a chance to win back a swing riding.

Dawn Black, the NDP's defence critic, will resign her federal seat in New Westminster-Coquitlam shortly, she said. She is expected to run uncontested for the NDP nomination in the provincial riding of New Westminster.

Ms. Black's decision is to be formally announced today by B.C. NDP Leader Carole James at the party's provincial council meeting.

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New Westminster is a safe seat for the B.C. New Democrats. It is currently held by MLA Chuck Puchmayr, who is not running again. Mr. Puchmayr is recovering from a liver transplant after recently being diagnosed with cancer.

Ms. Black said she was approached by New Democratic MLA Mike Farnworth, and later, Ms. James, to run provincially.

"I'll miss my federal colleagues, but I feel I can make a strong contribution to Carole James's team, and there is a possibility of forming a government under premier James," she said.

Last fall, Ms. Black won the federal seat by just three percentage points over Conservative candidate Yonah Martin.

She said that before she resigns as an MP she will finish work on drafting a private member's bill to restrict the use of civilian armoured vehicles. The issue is related to gang violence, currently one of the hot topics in Metro Vancouver.

She informed party leader Jack Layton a couple of weeks ago, she said.

The Conservative government holds 143 of 308 seats in Parliament.

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The NDP won 37 seats last October, making it the smallest of the three opposition parties.

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