After almost 25 years in public office, I have made the decision not to seek re-election in the 2023 provincial election. The time has come for new adventures. It has been a great honour and privilege to have served my constituents of Charleswood and now Headingley as MLA since 1998.
I appreciate the confidence that was placed in me when asked to serve in a number of positions over the years: Legislative Assistant to the Ministers of Health and Families, Health, Finance & Education Critic, Interim Leader of the PC Party of Manitoba, and Deputy Leader to name a few.
I am grateful to have had 5 Private Member’s Bills passed during my career. Most notably those that helped to prevent sexual assaults caused by date rape drugs and increase awareness, and to establish the Nellie McClung Foundation. The latter led to the monument of Nellie McClung and the Famous Five on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.
Recognizing Nellie McClung wasn’t just about the past. It was also about inspiring girls and women to know that they, too, could be leaders and create positive change. For every little girl who can see a woman making a difference in the lives of others is one more little girl who may be inspired to follow suit.
My advocacy over many years to have a women’s heart health program became a reality after the 2016 election. As a former neuroscience nurse, I was determined to do everything I could to have a gold- standard stroke unit in Manitoba, and I am most grateful to see this about to become a reality.
While it was never my intention to pursue the position of Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, I can say that being elected twice by my colleagues to serve as Speaker has been a demanding but rewarding experience. I am honoured to have been able to work with our legislative team to enhance our programs and services, modernize the workings of the Legislative Assembly, and implement a leadership development program which resulted in the first Mission, Values, and Aims Statements for the Assembly.
As Speaker, I have experienced many unique opportunities. I led our Assembly through the COVID-19 Pandemic. I created and curated the content of a time capsule in celebration of the 100th birthday of the Manitoba Legislative Building, oversaw the historic Manitoba Legislative Chamber renovation to improve accessibility, initiated a Women Trailblazers of the First 100 years permanent exhibit at the Legislature, as well as a Vote100 permanent exhibit to recognize Manitoba women being the first in Canada to be granted the vote. I am also pleased to co-chair the Manitoba Legislative Building Restoration and Preservation Advisory Committee.
As a strong advocate for women in leadership, I was pleased to see Manitoba welcome their first female premier. Over the years I became very aware of the challenges women face to get into politics and other leadership roles. This led to my deep commitment to address this deficit through my provincial, national, and international roles with the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) as well as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). It culminated in my being asked to take on the role of CWP International President in 2022.
One of my most fulfilling achievements in Charleswood is the development of the Charleswood 55+ Active Living Centre following my initiative to bring seniors together to celebrate the International Year of Older Persons. The other is the Community Leaders Networking Luncheons where community leaders come together twice a year to network, connect, and form community partnerships that benefit our community.
I want to thank the residents of Charleswood and Headingley for entrusting me as their representative through 7 elections. I also want to thank my wonderful Constituency Assistants, Constituency Association, and all my supporters throughout my years in politics for their commitment to me and for their tireless efforts to support me. I offer my sincere appreciation and want them to know I will forever be grateful and humbled.
Thank you to my family, friends, constituents and the many volunteers, past and present, for the incredible trust and support you have given me over the years.
I would also like to acknowledge the many members of the PC Caucus whom I have had the privilege to work with and enjoy friendships for over 25 years. I am truly thankful for my journey in public life and look forward to what the next chapter will bring. I also look forward to more time with my family, especially my 2 young granddaughters.
And a final comment: it is healthy for democracy if MLAs respectfully express different opinion. It is not healthy for democracy if we can’t do it with decency and respect. Democracy right now is so fragile. Now, more than ever, we need us, as lawmakers, to transcend partisanship and learn how to work together. According to a neighbour of mine, as a society we have lost any ability to judge policy based on merit. We attack it based on whether it comes from the left or from the right. The rising toxicity in politics and perpetual anger erodes the foundation of democracy. We must do better.
I am genuinely thankful for my journey in public life, and I look forward to what the next chapter will bring. Public service has been an honour and a privilege.