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Departure left PM ‘surprised and disappointed,’ Stockwell Day says

In wrestling with his decision to leave politics, Stockwell Day was reminded of the words of his late father. He "always told us as kids to always try to leave the campground in a little better shape than you found it and I hope I've done that," Mr. Day told The Globe Saturday.

The Treasury Board President, former leader of the Canadian Alliance and a long-time former provincial politician surprised even his own colleagues when he announced this weekend that he will not seek re-election.

"No time is easy, this has been in some ways a difficult decision," Mr. Day told CTV's Question Period in a separate interview. "But my wife and I feel that after 25 years [in politics] this is simply the right time to do this. Our health is good; energy is good. This is not retirement, it's realignment and now is the time."

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His announcement spurred on others. Two of his British Columbia colleagues, Transportation Minister Chuck Strahl and veteran Tory MP John Cummins, also announced their intentions not to run again.

Coming on a quiet Saturday morning after a tumultuous week, all of this raised the spectre the government believes an election is in the offing. Stephen Harper's minority Tories could fall on their March 22nd budget – and also face a possible confidence vote stemming from twin parliamentary privilege rulings by the House of Commons Speaker.

"In discussions with the Prime Minister, we wanted to be close enough to what we think might be an election, even though we don't want to see an election," Mr. Day said. "We think we should stay focused on jobs, on the economy but with the sounds that the opposition leaders are making it appears that they might be trying to force an election."

He said his decision will make room for other candidates to come forward and get ready for a possible campaign. One of Mr.'s Harper most senior ministers, he added that he was not pressured by the Prime Minister to leave.

It's not clear whether he will stay in cabinet until the election comes. In fact, he said Mr. Harper was "surprised and disappointed" by his decision, although he had several conversations with the Prime Minister about his future.

There is a view May Harper may want to shuffle his cabinet to give some profile to other MPs. Another view is that these announcements significantly weaken his bench strength in British Columbia and his election strategy in that province.

So what's next for Mr. Day? He seemed to rule out following his colleague, former environment minister Jim Prentice, to Bay Street.

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Over the weekend, Mr. Day was reminiscing about his political career – he was elected to the Alberta legislature in 1986 and then elected to the House of Commons in 2000 – and was asked about his accomplishments. He told The Globe that rather than think of the things he had done, he was thinking of the people who helped along the way – something, he said, he'll deal with in his "book."

He was grinning when he said that, so it's not clear yet exactly how serious he is about penning a political memoir any time soon.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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