Former trade minister Peterson to retire July 12

Longtime MP Jim Peterson officially announced his retirement on Wednesday, the second veteran Liberal to leave politics in two days.

Longtime MP Jim Peterson officially announced his retirement on Wednesday, the second veteran Liberal to leave politics in two days.

Peterson, a former trade minister who spent 23 years as an MP, said he will vacate his Willowdale seat in Toronto on July 12.

His announcement comes a day after MP Bill Graham announced he will leave his Toronto Centre riding on July 2.

Peterson, who announced his intention to retire earlier this year,said he doesn't want to finish out his term because it could mean serving one or two more years, should it take that long for the next federal election to be called.

"I think this gives us an opportunity to have some new, strong voices here in Ottawa," Peterson told CBC News.

"I think it's very important for the people of Willowdale to have a person who is going to be with them over the long term."

He did not say what his future plans were.

It is not clear when Prime Minister Stephen Harper will call a byelection in Willowdale, or Graham's Toronto Centre riding, butfederal rules statethe PM mustmake the callinvacant ridings within six months of the vacancy.

Helped ballet star defect from USSR

Peterson, who lives with his wife in Toronto, was first elected to Parliament in 1980. By that time, he had already made a name for himself as a lawyer, when he helped ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov defect from the former Soviet Union during a 1974 ballet performance in Toronto.

Politically, Peterson took on some key roles in the federal government. In 1997, he was appointed secretary of state for international financial institutions andin 2003, then-prime minister Paul MartinnamedPetersonas international trade minister.

Peterson, who was born in Ottawa, comes from a family of politicians. His brother, David Peterson, was a Liberal premier of Ontario, while his brother, Tim Peterson, is a member of the Ontario government. Tim Peterson currently sits as an Independent after announcingearlier thisyear that he is leaving the Liberals to join the Conservatives.

Hall Findlay set to run in Willowdale

Jim Peterson's retirement clears the way for Martha Hall Findlay to be the next federal Liberal candidate in Willowdale.

Hall Findlay, a lawyer who currently doesn't have a seat in the House of Commons, won the nomination earlier this year.

She finished last out of eight candidates on the first ballot during the Liberal leadership contest in December, but then backed Stéphane Dion, who won.

She made headlines in 2004 when she ran against Conservative Belinda Stronach in the in the Toronto-area riding of Newmarket-Aurora and lost. A year later, she stepped aside as the riding's Liberal candidate, allowing Stronach to fill that role when she left the Conservatives for the Liberals.

With files from the Canadian Press