A longtime Conservative MLA has decided to retire -- avoiding a potentially divisive showdown with a caucus colleague for the party nomination in a western Manitoba riding.
Len Derkach, a former Filmon government cabinet minister, announced Monday he will not seek the nomination in the newly drawn constituency of Riding Mountain.
Derkach, 66, said he had planned as late as last week to run for an eighth term, but reconsidered his decision when caucus colleague Leanne Rowat (Minnedosa) declared Wednesday she would seek the party's nod in Riding Mountain.
Derkach said he will remain an MLA until the Oct. 4 election. Because of redistribution, Rowat's constituency is disappearing, as is Derkach's longtime seat in Russell. The new constituency will overlap considerably with Russell constituency and to a lesser extent with Minnedosa.
A contested nomination between two sitting MLAs could have divided the party and left it vulnerable to its political opponents, said Derkach.
"I don't want to jeopardize that (the party's success in the region). I've had a good career in politics. I can't deny that," said the 25-year MLA, who held the education and rural development portfolios when Gary Filmon was premier.
Rowat, who has represented Minnedosa since 2003, said she had considered seeking the nomination in Brandon West, which is coming open as Tory MLA Rick Borotsik has announced he is retiring from politics.
But she said Monday she feels more comfortable representing a rural area. The Progressive Conservatives will hold their Riding Mountain nomination meeting March 3 in Shoal Lake. Rowat is the lone candidate, so far. Rowat praised Derkach for his long public service. "Len's a great colleague," she said. "We were both in a position where we were looking for an opportunity to continue."
Derkach admitted to having looked forward to the possibility of being part of a new government in the fall, but decided against running after Rowat announced her intentions.
"It wasn't because I thought I would lose or anything of that nature," he said. "It had more to do with a caucus colleague challenging another caucus colleague and the situation that creates."
Derkach and Tory colleague Bonnie Mitchelson (River East), both first elected in March 1986, are second only to Thompson NDP MLA Steve Ashton (1981) in seniority at the legislature. A former teacher and vice-principal, Derkach said he will devote more time to the family's farming and business operations. He said he won't miss the four-hour commute between Winnipeg and Russell.
In addition to his decade in cabinet (1988-1999), Derkach said he considers the revitalization of Shoal Lake Hospital and the development of Asesseppi Winter Park among the highlights of his political career.
Three other Manitoba Conservative MLAs have declared they will not seek re-election Oct. 4.
-- Pembina MLA Peter George Dyck announced last year he would leave after 16 years in office. Three candidates are seeking the PC nomination to replace him in the new constituency of Morden-Winkler: Winkler deputy mayor Henry Siemens, Morden businessman Tom Wiebe and Cameron Friesen, who until recently was executive assistant to Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Hoeppner. A nomination date has not yet been set.
-- Brandon West MLA Rick Borotsik announced in December he was stepping down. Two candidates, businessman Reg Helwer and businesswoman Terry Jaenen are vying for the Tory nomination. A nomination meeting is expected in early April.
-- David Faurschou also announced last year he would not run again in Portage la Prairie. The Conservatives have already selected former Keystone Agricultural Producers president Ian Wishart as their candidate.