OTTAWA — Three Manitoba MPs were among more than 30 Conservatives feted Wednesday by their peers at the last Conservative caucus meeting before the fall election.
Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith said it was a little emotional for her as she closes the door on 11 years as an MP and more than a decade and a half in elected politics.
"It's the end of an era," said Smith, who announced her retirement in January.
Smith said the party put photos of all the MPs who won't be on the ballot this fall up on a screen during the meeting. That included Jim Flaherty, the long-serving finance minister who announced he was retiring in 2014 and died of a heart attack a few weeks later.
Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge is also leaving, as is Saint Boniface MP, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover.
In all, there are at least 50 incumbent MPs — including 31 Conservatives, 11 New Democrats, five Liberals and one Bloc Québécois — who aren't running again. That's the highest number since 2004, when 58 incumbents resigned, according to punditsguide.ca.
The highest number of retiring incumbents recorded in that analysis was in 1993, when the Brian Mulroney government was defeated. In that campaign, 72 MPs didn't seek re-election.
There are at least four cabinet ministers on this year's list, including Glover, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and International Development Minister Christian Paradis. Former foreign affairs minister John Baird resigned earlier this year.
Associate defence minister Julian Fantino hasn't been nominated yet and wouldn't say Wednesday if he will run again. He told reporters before the caucus meeting he had to talk to his riding association.
In Manitoba, two other Conservatives who were elected in the last general election resigned mid-term and have already been replaced through byelections: Vic Toews in Provencher and Merv Tweed in Brandon-Souris.
Smith said she plans to focus her time on the foundation she created to help victims of human trafficking.
She will also help Jim Bell campaign in her riding in the fall. He is running against Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk and the NDP's Suzanne Hrynyk.
But Smith says initially she plans to put her feet up and relax.
"I'm going to take a little while and just breathe," she said.
Sources say Bruinooge is shopping around for a possible run in provincial politics but isn't going to announce anything until after the federal vote Oct. 19. Bruinooge was elected in 2006 and was referred to as the dragon-slayer for defeating longtime Liberal and cabinet minister Reg Alcock.
The only provincial seat Bruinooge could likely run for is St. Norbert, where the NDP's Dave Gaudreau won by just 31 votes in 2011.
There are candidates interested, but the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba has yet to open St. Norbert for nominations. It is one of only seven ridings in that category, leaving many speculating the Tories are leaving it open for Bruinooge to run later this year. Bruinooge did not respond to a request for an interview.
Glover is returning to her job at the Winnipeg Police Service.