Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the combative NDP member of Parliament for Winnipeg's North End, is leaving federal politics and is expected to announce she will run for mayor of Winnipeg.
Ms. Wasylycia-Leis has been quietly organizing a run for mayor for several months, although she did not make her plans official Tuesday, saying she would take time to consult with her family and supporters before making a final decision. She will officially resign her seat on April 30 and make an announcement on her future a few days later.
"I'm going to focus with family and friends in a place of relative quiet to see if it feels right and if I've got that broad base of support that I need," she said in an interview Tuesday.
She is likely to present the centre-left challenge to Winnipeg's incumbent mayor, Sam Katz, a local businessman and owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team.
NDP Leader Jack Layton hailed his caucus colleague Tuesday as a fierce defender of medicare.
"Judy has been a warrior on this issue in our caucus, under my leadership and that of my predecessor, Alexa McDonough," Mr. Layton said in a statement. "When I think of all the causes she has championed over the years, from help for the TB epidemic sweeping first nations' communities, to getting life-saving drugs into the hands of the world's most impoverished people, she will be a hard act to follow. She's been a champion for the disabled and her pharmacare plan won accolades from editorialists and advocates across the country."
The Winnipeg North seat, once occupied by such stalwarts of the left as A. A. Heaps and David Orlikow, is considered among the safest NDP ridings in Canada. One of the candidates vying to succeed Ms. Wasylycia-Leis is Kevin Chief, the co-ordinator of the University of Winnipeg's Innovative Learning Centre, a program designed to bring aboriginal students to post-secondary education. Mr. Chief, who has won local renown for his work with inner-city children, is exactly the type of person Ms. Wasylycia-Leis said she hopes will carry the NDP banner in Winnipeg North.
"Kevin Chief is absolutely the kind of person I think of when I think about the kind of representation Winnipeg North deserves and needs. I've worked with him on a number of issues and I realize his strengths," she said. "He brings the same approach to politics that I have, which is [to]speak as a grassroots politician in touch with what's happening."
Ms. Wasylycia-Leis served 13 years in Ottawa and spent many years as NDP caucus chair. She made an explosive contribution to political history by asking the RCMP to investigate whether the previous Liberal government had leaked news of its decision not to change taxation rules for income trusts to Bay Street. In the middle of an election campaign, RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli announced that the force would investigate the allegation. The news helped push Stephen Harper's Conservatives to their first election victory in 2006.