Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goertzen mum on Provencher

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THE man who's been one of the leading opponents of the Selinger government's PST increase and its anti-bullying legislation is seen by many as the only candidate to replace Vic Toews as MP for Provencher.

But whether he's interested or not, Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen wasn't saying Monday.

"No comment," Goertzen said. "Today's a day just to thank Vic for his service."

It's no secret at the legislature the ambitious Goertzen has planned to leave provincial politics and replace Toews in Ottawa once Toews made it clear he'd vacate the seat.

Goertzen said he currently enjoys his role as Progressive Conservative house leader under Tory Leader Brian Pallister, a job that's allowed him to be one of the lead architects in delaying passage of several government bills and forcing an extended legislative sitting into the summer.

"I've relished it. I appreciated the opportunity. I like the job I have," he said.

Tory insiders say Goertzen has to weigh the pros and cons of running federally. As MP, he'd be relegated to the backbench in a Conservative government.

He also has a young son, and the demands of Ottawa would take him away from home more often than now.

Goertzen doesn't have long to make up his mind, if he hasn't already.

With the Provencher seat now vacant in the House of Commons, a byelection will have to be called before the next scheduled federal election in fall 2015.

Under Pallister, Goerzten has seen his star rise as house leader and is the most likely candidate for attorney general should the Tories win the next provincial election. But that's three years away, and Goertzen has already served a decade in Opposition.

"Individuals have to make decisions about where they want to serve," Pallister said. "It's public life, and I'll respect the decisions that people make."

Pallister said he's not about to woo Goertzen to stay on. "I'm not a carrot-dangler by nature. There are wonderful opportunities for Conservatives to serve here or in Ottawa."

In a radio interview Monday, Toews dismissed the suggestion that, in Opposition, he would have balked at the cost to taxpayers of a mid-term byelection.

"Perhaps that's the price of democracy," he said, adding MPs should serve constituents to the best of their ability and with focus, or step aside.

He said he will not endorse anyone in Provencher.

Goertzen said he's been a Toews supporter for more than a decade and was one of several people who urged him to run in 2000 against Liberal incumbent, the late David Iftody. Goertzen also worked for Toews before he became an MLA in 2003. Goertzen's wife, Kim, has worked in Toews' constituency office for the past decade.

"People liked working for him and they stayed for a long time, and that says something about him as a boss," he said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 A4

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