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Winnipeg North MP Wasylycia-Leis steps down

Expects announcement on city mayoral candidacy this week

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Winnipeg North MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis retired from federal politics last week, but admits she still has plenty of work left to do before she leaves Ottawa.

"I’m in the midst of sorting through 13 years of paperwork," the long-time NDP Member of Parliament joked last Thursday.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis officially resigned her North Winnipeg seat May 1 after serving 13 years as the federal representative for the area.

It has been widely speculated that she will soon announce her candidacy for mayor in this fall’s Winnipeg municipal election.

Her resignation sent immediate ripples throughout the community she used to represent.

"She was a great contact with our tenant association over the year and I think if she were to run for mayor, it would be a great," said North End resident Linda Mayoh.

Wasylycia-Leis’s decision to retire from federal politics was also felt amongst some of her former political colleagues here in Manitoba.

Wasylycia-Leis served as an MLA in the Manitoba Legislature from 1986 until she resigned in 1993 to take a run at a federal politics.

Jerry Storie, who represented Flin Flon as MLA from 1981 to 1994, said he was initially surprised when Wasylycia-Leis made the move away from provincial politics.

"We were on our way to reforming government and she would have had a major role, but Judy saw the bigger picture," Storie said.

Former MLA Muriel Smith, the first woman in Canada to serve as deputy premier, said she admired Wasylycia-Leis for the political tone she set.

"To me she was the next generation of women in politics and someone who has a broad policy grasp and a real feel for diversity," Smith said.

Wasylycia-Leis recalled last week that it was her concern over federal health care that prompted her to become involved in federal politics.

"In the early 1990s, it looked like we were going to lose transfer payments by 2000," she said. "Medicare is the heart and soul of this country, one of the basic things that tie us all together. It just became obvious that the battle had to be waged on a federal landscape."

Myrna Phillips, Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature from 1986 to 1988,  said one memory stands out to her as she observed Wasylycia-Leis in action.

"I remember once when another MLA made a comment in the legislature that Judy was a high priced babysitter for bringing her children to work. She rose on a question of privilege and eloquently made her case that women and working women needed child care."

Wasylycia-Leis said one of her most enduring memories of her time in Ottawa will be how people in the North End rallied to fight the exodus of big banks from the community.

"When they started moving out of the North End, people came out and made their case. As the last bank was pulling out, CIBC, we had a terrible meeting with them that was not satisfactory at all," she said.

"The community forced a second meeting and won a few concessions that eventually led to things like alternative financial services being created for the area and eventually, the Assiniboine Credit Union moving into the area."

Wasylycia-Leis said last week that while she had yet to make up her mind on her political future, a decision would be forthcoming soon.
"If something does happen, there will be an announcement this week," she said.

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