British Columbia

It's official: Svend Robinson is attempting another political comeback

The former MP announced Tuesday morning that he will run as a New Democrat in Burnaby North-Seymour in the 2019 election.

Longtime former MP will run for NDP in Burnaby North-Seymour in 2019 federal election

Svend Robinson announced Tuesday that he'll run for the NDP in Burnaby North-Seymour in the 2019 federal election. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Thirteen years after his last attempt, NDP stalwart Svend Robinson is mounting another bid for a political comeback.

The former MP announced Tuesday morning that he will run as a New Democrat in Burnaby North-Seymour in this year's federal election, facing off against incumbent Liberal MP Terry Beech. Robinson is expected to be acclaimed as the party's candidate at a nomination meeting this week.

"I've been knocking on doors in the last few months ... and even though it has been 15 years since I last served in Parliament, many people welcomed me back, with memories of my service to them and to the community," he told reporters outside his childhood home at 301 N. Grosvenor Ave., which is in the riding.

Robinson said he was inspired to run again because of two "profound threats to our communities" — climate change and the affordable housing crisis. He promised to demand that no new oil and gas projects go forward in Canada and to push for housing to be treated as a fundamental human right.

Beginning in 1979, Robinson spent 25 years in Parliament representing Burnaby constituents. That all ended in 2004, after he admitted to stealing a valuable ring at an auction.

Unprompted by journalists at Tuesday's announcements, Robinson addressed the theft, describing it as a "terrible mistake."

"I will regret that for the rest of my life. Both the prosecutor and the judge accepted that I was struggling with mental illness at the time. I took full responsibility for my actions, I gave up the job I loved, I did community service here in Burnaby," he said.

He added that he's not the only elected official with a criminal history, pointing to the example of Frank Howard, a former MLA who spent time in prison for armed robbery in the 1940s before making a move to politics.

In the years since the scandal, he has spent time in Switzerland working with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. After retiring in 2017, Robinson and his partner moved to Cyprus, but he said Tuesday he has recently moved back to Burnaby.

Robinson was the first openly gay MP in Canada, and was a major figure in the unsuccessful fight to legalize physician-assisted death in the 1990s.

He last tried to return to politics in the 2006 election, when he challenged Liberal Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre. Fry easily defeated him by a margin of more than 8,000 votes.

With files from The Canadian Press

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