OTTAWA – Veteran Winnipeg Conservative Member of Parliament Joy Smith will not seek a fifth term as the MP for Kildonan-St. Paul.

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OTTAWA – Veteran Winnipeg Conservative Member of Parliament Joy Smith will not seek a fifth term as the MP for Kildonan-St. Paul.

Smith, 67, said at a press conference at her constituency office on Henderson Highway, that she thinks the time is right to refocus her life solely on combating human trafficking, which has been her main issue as a parliamentarian.

"I think I can do more for the most vulnerable outside parliament, rather than inside parliament," Smith said.

She is the second Conservative MP from Manitoba in a week to announce she won’t run in the next election. Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge said last week he won’t run again because he wants to spend more time with his young children.

Smith was first elected in 2004, and was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2011, each time with a bigger share of the popular vote.

She said she feels she has accomplished what she can in Parliament for victims of human trafficking.

"I’m really excited about what I can do outside of Parliament," she told the Free Press in an interview.

Smith had two private members’ bills passed, in 2010 and 2012, which amended the Criminal Code as it pertains to human trafficking. The first introduced mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers of children, and the second gives Canada the power to try Canadians here for human trafficking offences abroad.

She also helped create the national action plan against human trafficking and was part of the work pushing to get Canada’s new prostitution laws in place last year. That law, bill C-36, was required after the Supreme Court struck down the current laws in 2012. The new law criminalizes the purchase of sex.

MP Joy Smith has decided not to run in the next federal election.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

MP Joy Smith has decided not to run in the next federal election.

Smith plans to spend most of her time now on the foundation she established in her name, which funds programs to help victims of human trafficking, and awareness campaigns to educate Canadians about the issue.

"By the time you do the two bills and the national action plan and then bill C-36, I know that the tools are there now," she said. "What do I do next? There is a huge gap in the Canadian public, a gap in lack of knowledge about human trafficking. I think it’s important that moms and dads across this country know how to protect their children."

Prior to being elected to Parliament, Smith was the MLA for Fort Garry for one term. She was a high school math and science teacher for more than two decades prior to entering politics.

Smith was nominated in her riding last April but another nomination meeting will now take place.

She said she doesn’t know specifically who will step in to run but whoever does will have to be prepared to work hard.

Winnipeg city councillor Jeff Browaty already said this morning he is seriously considering it. Speculation has long been that St. Paul MLA Ron Schuler will want to make the jump to federal politics; however, Schuler was just nominated last week to run again provincially.

The Liberals have nominated former NDP MLA MaryAnn Mihychuk to run in Kildonan-St.Paul. The NDP have yet to nominated a candidate. Former Winnipeg School Division chair Suzanne Hrynyk, who narrowly lost the civic election in Old Kildonan last fall, has announced intentions to seek the NDP nomination.

Smith’s departure will make this riding one to watch in the next election.

More than two dozen Conservative MPs have announced they won’t seek re-election nationwide, along with eight NDP MPs and five Liberals. The election is scheduled for October but speculation is still high Prime Minister Stephen Harper could take Canadians to the polls sometime this spring.

 

Mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca