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Inky hopes to make a Mark as mayor again

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OTTAWA -- The Tory maverick from Manitoba is leaving federal politics in a bid to return to the mayor's chair in Dauphin.

Inky Mark, the Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette MP since 1997 who is best known for having a strong independent streak, announced Monday he will resign his seat to campaign in the Dauphin municipal election in October. Mark, 63, was a city councillor and then mayor in Dauphin in the 1990s, before jumping to federal politics.

Mark announced in June 2009 he wouldn't run again federally, fully expecting an anticipated election in the fall of that year would end his federal career. But that election never came.

In recent months he has been approached by several people in Dauphin to run municipally. He cannot put his name in as a mayoral candidate unless he resigns his seat. So he picked up his nomination papers Monday morning and will officially step down as MP Sept. 15, the first day nomination papers can be filed in Dauphin.

"If we had a decent government here I wouldn't worry about it," he said. "I want to set the city on a new course."

Mark would not elaborate on his comments about the current administration, headed by mayor Alex Paul. Mark said he'll wait for the campaign and after he's no longer an MP to say more.

He said he waited until now to drop his bombshell because he and his wife wanted to spend one last summer on the riding's barbecue and festival circuit almost as a swan song.

Mark has long been known as an independent thinker who wouldn't hesitate to vote against his own party if he felt it was in his riding's best interest. Most notably, he objected to the Harper government's plan to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. He spoke out against the move and voted against a private members' bill on the subject in 2006.

Mark said Monday he never believed he had to support his leader on everything. "My style of doing politics is putting the people first," he said.

He also thinks the only reason he was not disciplined is because of his popularity in the riding and the unlikely chance the Conservatives would have won the riding if he was running against them as an independent.

"If they didn't need this seat I would have gotten the boot from the party a long time ago," he said.

His role within the party gradually waned, and after the 2008 election, he wasn't given any committee tasks. He is one of the least vocal MPs in the House, with just three MPs delivering fewer words in the session just completed.

Mark's caucus colleagues expressed surprise that Mark felt he would have been ejected from the caucus and said he will be missed.

"He's a bit of a maverick but very principled," said Manitoba Conservative caucus chair James Bezan. "He likes to do things his own way."

Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia Conservative MP Steven Fletcher said Mark had immense political skill.

"He's the kind of guy who you can trust what he says even though you may not want to hear it," said Fletcher.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2010 A6

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