Veteran Tory MLA Myrna Driedger won't run in 2023 Manitoba election
'Great honour and privilege' to serve as MLA for 25 years, Speaker says
Veteran Progressive Conservative MLA Myrna Driedger, who advocated for women's issues and more civility in politics, will not seek re-election in Manitoba's 2023 provincial election.
Driedger, the current Speaker and member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for Roblin, said Wednesday it has been an honour to serve west Winnipeg as an MLA for almost 25 years.
"I want to thank the residents of Charleswood and Headingley for entrusting me as their representative through seven elections," Driedger said in a statement on her website.
"I am genuinely 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 two young granddaughters.
"Public service has been an honour and a privilege."
Driedger, who was first elected in 1998, has served as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly since the Progressive Conservatives were returned to government in 2016.
Though it was never her intention to pursue the role, she wrote in her Wednesday statement, she found it to be a "demanding but rewarding experience."
During her time as Speaker, she helped revamp policies to protect politicians and legislature staff from harassment, bullying and sexual impropriety. She also led the Legislative Assembly through the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the creation of hybrid sittings so MLAs could participate in person and virtually.
Early in her career as an MLA, she served as the legislative assistant to the ministers for health and families.
After the PCs were defeated by the NDP in 1999, Driedger held critic roles in the important portfolios of Health, Finance and Education. She was also interim leader of the PC party and served as deputy leader.
In her Wednesday statement, she said she's proud of passing five private member's bills during her career, including legislation that allowed patrons to carry their alcoholic drinks into a washroom, rather than leaving them unattended, as a measure to prevent sexual assault through drugged drinks.
She said she is also pleased to have supported the creation of a dedicated stroke unit in Manitoba.
Driedger has long championed women in politics. She established the Nellie McClung Foundation, which works to raise awareness of the famed suffragist, who helped some women win the right to vote in Manitoba in 1916.
The Roblin MLA also set up a permanent exhibit in the legislative building which recognizes women who were political trailblazers. She's also held international and national roles with other female politicians to improve the representation of women in politics.
Driedger will be vacating a seat in an area that has traditionally been a Tory stronghold, but the party has consistently trailed the Opposition NDP in recent opinion polls, particularly in the provincial capital. A recent Probe Research poll suggested the NDP had a 28 percentage point lead over the PCs within Winnipeg.
A quarter of the PC MLAs who were in the party's caucus a year ago — nine of 36 MLAs — won't run in the next provincial election.
Former Kirkfield Park MLA Scott Fielding resigned last June, while Eileen Clarke (Agassiz), Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods), Ralph Eichler (Lakeside), Alan Lagimodiere (Selkirk), Blaine Pedersen (Midland), Dennis Smook (La Verendrye) and Ian Wishart (Portage la Prairie) have all said they will not seek another term in the Manitoba Legislature.
The general election is slated for October 2023.