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Denise Savoie stepping down due to health reasons

Victoria MP Densie Savoie (NDP) - File photo
Victoria MP Densie Savoie (NDP)
— image credit: File photo

Victoria MP Denise Savoie (NDP) announced today she will step down on Aug. 31 due to unspecified health reasons.

She made the announcement the day after the first anniversary of the death of Jack Layton, which weighed on her decision.

"This spring, my doctor gave me a health warning," Savoie said at her Victoria office today with federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. "After I considered these facts over the summer, I realized that I can’t continue to represent my constituents to the standards that they have come to expect."

The former Victoria city counsellor and CRD director was first elected MP in 2006 (and was the first woman elected for the Victoria riding) and named NDP deputy speaker in 2011. We won re-election in her staunchly left-of-centre riding without much trouble in 2008 and 2011.

Savoie ran on a platform of supporting light rapid transit in the region, affordable housing and security for seniors. She lobbied to ban tanker traffic on B.C.'s coast and to secure federal funding for the Johhson Street bridge replacement project and regional sewage treatment.

During her first term, she served as critic for post-secondary education, skills training and literacy in Jack Layton's NDP caucus, and as co-chair of the party's environment caucus.

"I have always strived to set a civil and constructive tone in debate," she said regarding her role as deputy speaker. "My work to maintain mutual respect among MPs in a hyper-partisan environment has not always been successful."

A 68-year-old grandmother of six and mother of three, Savoie served in municipal politics from 1999 until 2005. During her days on Victoria council, she helped to establish a regional housing trust, championed the cleanup of the harbour and received two national awards for her work on the environment. She also spearheaded development of the Galloping Goose Trail and the Selkirk Trestle.

"I got into politics to help make a better world for my children and grandchildren. Now, it’s time for me to devote myself full-time to my family and to seeing my grandchildren grow up," Savoie said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin called Savoie a friend and a colleague, and said her skills advocating for Victoria in Ottawa will be sorely missed. The mayor credits her with helping bring millions in federal dollars to the city for the bridge and sewage treatment. She also helped the city navigate jurisdictional issues of the proposed and controversial marina near the Inner Harbour and live-aboard boaters on the Gorge Waterway.

"She has shown a unique ability to really stay in touch with citizens, to work on behalf of local issues, and push much larger issues at the national stage. It's hard to do," Fortin said on Thursday. "For a lot of local issues she was a great voice for us in Ottawa dealing with the federal bureaucracy."

One of her last acts as MP was to submit a letter to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel.

Following a similar tone as her provincial NDP counterparts, she opposes the project and says the risks to B.C.'s economy and environment far outweigh the benefits. She also noted that questions linger around Enbridge's ability to adequately respond to an oil spill and asserted the company has a poor safety record.

"Look at the way the Enbridge Project is evolving. At the beginning, Harper government called those opposed it radicals and extremists," Savoie said today. "But when it became clear the majority of British Columbians would be radicals and extremists, Harper had to back peddle and change his language."

The Victoria federal riding will hold a byelection in upcoming months.

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