Inside Politics

Earliest date for 4 federal by-elections now Oct. 21

UPDATE - As of September 3, the House of Commons seat formerly occupied by Merv Tweed is officially up for grabs.

(Although he initially announced his intention to step down on August 12t, his resignation didn't take effect until the end of the month.)

As predicted, that bumps the earliest possible date for the next batch of by-elections to October 21 -- presuming, of course, that the PM sticks with the tradition of holding all four votes on the same day. 


Tory MP Merv Tweed leaves Commons for top job at rail company (originally posted on August 12)

And then there were four... suddenly unoccupied Commons seats to be filled via by-election

Hot off the presses comes the official word that veteran Manitoba MP and committee chair Merv Tweed will not be returning to the Hill when the House resumes this fall, as he intends to resign his seat on August 31 "to pursue opportunities in the private sector." : 
From his website: 

"I have had the honour to serve the public for many years at the municipal, provincial and federal level and my decision to leave politics was not made lightly. Politics has been a major part of my life for many years and I will certainly miss its responsibilities and challenges," said Tweed.

"Over the past nine years, Merv has been a tremendous representative for the citizens of Brandon-Souris. His tireless efforts have resulted in significant new investments that will benefit the communities of Southwestern Manitoba for decades to come. We thank him for all the hard work and dedication he has shown as our Member of Parliament, and wish him well in the next chapter of his career." said Matt Bolley, President of the Brandon-Souris Conservative EDA.

Read the full release here.

Tweed was first elected in 2004, and has served as chair of several committees, including transport and, most recently, agriculture. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the Speaker's gig in 2011, but was dropped at the fourth ballot. 

UPDATE: Well, that was fast. 

It would seem that Tweed had one particular pursuit-worthy private sector job in mind when he announced his intention to stand down from the Commons at the end of the month -- specifically, president of OmniTRAX Canada, which bills itself as "one of North America's largest private railroad and transportation management companies."

Interestingly, last November, Tweed met with OmniTRAX lobbyist Leo Duguay -- who is, coincidentally (or not), is also a former Manitoba Tory MP, albeit from the Progressive Conservative wing of the party -- to discuss otherwise unspecified business related to agriculture, infrastructure and transportation.

According to lobby registry filings, for the last few years, the company has been pushing the federal government to kick in some cash to support infrastructure projects related to the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill, both of which are "part of the OmniTRAX Canada family."

As a backbench MP, Tweed is not covered by the Conflict of Interest Act, but by the far less stringent Code of Conduct for MPs, which exempts him from the cooling off periods and other restrictions imposed on departing ministers, parliamentary secretaries and senior political staff.

He is, however, subject to the five-year ban on paid lobbying.

Still, given his fairly recent tenure as chair of the transport committee -- which, it's worth noting, dealt with several rail-related bills during the three years that he controlled the gavel, including last year's amendments to the Railway Safety Act-- the swiftness with an MP can move from one side of the legislative table to the other may raise not just eyebrows, but another round of calls for stricter post-employment rules for former parliamentarians. 

Here's the official release, courtesy of OmniTRAX: 

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