War horse rides into sunset: Alberta NDP’s Brian Mason retiring from politics

EDMONTON — Brian Mason, the current war horse of Alberta politics, is riding off into the sunset, saying it’s time to go after almost 30 years in public life.

“There’s always more to do and things you’d like to do,” Mason, the NDP’s transportation minister and government house leader, said Wednesday at the legislature.

“But at some point you just have to say, ‘I’m at that point in my life where the right thing for me to do is hang up my spurs.’”

Mason said he will stay on in his portfolios until the election writ drops sometime next spring.

The 64-year-old member for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood is the longest-serving current member of the legislature.

He will be remembered as a politician with a stiletto sharp wit and a keen eye for the political jugular.

Mason was the NDP party leader for a decade, stepping aside in 2014 to launch a race that saw fellow MLA Rachel Notley become leader and then, in a stunning upset, win the 2015 provincial election.

Mason said his greatest day in the house was after the election when he walked in, not on the opposition side, but sat on the government benches.

“I knew some political party would beat the (Progressive) Conservatives. I wasn’t convinced it was going to be us, quite frankly. The fact that that happened was a really wonderful development,” he said.

“I actually considered not running last time (in 2015) and thank goodness I did. I would have just been kicking myself for four years.”

He said that he takes pride during his government years in getting infrastructure projects going, including roads, bridges, a cancer centre in Calgary and a new hospital in Edmonton.

He said governing is more satisfying but a lot more work.

“In opposition, you can have a news conference at 11 o’clock in the morning. You can crap all over the government (and) you can go home for lunch. You’re done for the day. This is much, much more difficult.”

The former bus driver and Edmonton city councillor leaves with an unblemished campaign record.

He served 11 years on city council, starting in 1989, before jumping to the provincial NDP in 2000. He is in his fifth full term as an MLA.

As a municipal councillor he fought for, and got, recreational facilities, a library and health clinics built in a north Edmonton ward that had previously been known for its jail and landfill.

As NDP opposition leader, he made a name for himself battling a string of Progressive Conservative premiers starting with Ralph Klein, all the while refining the art of political theatre.

When the Tories suggested Albertans chilled by high heating bills put on sweaters, he and fellow NDPer Raj Pannu sat in the house during question period and knitted.

When Klein declined to debate health privatization on the campaign trail, citing its complexity, Mason presented him with a pamphlet titled Health Care for Dummies.

Mason said opposition-led challenges to government health care privatization plans preserved the public system that remains today.

He mentored Notley before finally persuading her in 2014 to run for the top job.

Notley, speaking in Calgary, lauded Mason for his work.

 

Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Alberta Government House Leader Brian Mason speaks during a press conference in Edmonton on Wednesday. Alberta Government House Leader Brian Mason announces at the legislature Wednesday he will not be running in the spring 2019 general election. When he leaves next year it will end almost 30 years in public life for the longest current member of the legislature.

Just Posted

Sport of axe throwing growing in Red Deer

True North Axe Throwing wants sport to be ‘Canadian version of darts’

Optimism remains for Red Deer hospital expansion

Red Deer’s incoming UCP MLAs both have been strong supporters of expansion

RDC cancels championship-winning golf program due to tight finances

Short season, small number of student golfers were also considerations

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

WATCH: An ‘Eggstemely Fun Easter’ at Bower Place in Red Deer

Bower Place mall made sure Red Deer families were able to have… Continue reading

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

PARIS — A “computer glitch” may have been behind the fast-spreading fire… Continue reading

Former journalist pleads guilty to robbing two banks in Medicine Hat

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former journalist arrested almost two years ago… Continue reading

Austria fears for three top climbers missing in Banff National Park

BERLIN — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday his thoughts are with… Continue reading

As Vancouver fights over 4-20, Seattle’s Hempfest enjoys tolerance, some support

VANCOUVER — They both came from humble beginnings: small protests against marijuana… Continue reading

All eyes on the surging Greens as Prince Edward Island goes to the polls

After a brief provincial election campaign devoid of drama, voters on Prince… Continue reading

North Dakota company where 4 were slain seeks normalcy

MANDAN, N.D. — Camaraderie was so important for the “coffee club” at… Continue reading

Trump blasts ex-advisers who say he tried to stop Mueller

WASHINGTON — A day after celebrating the release of the Mueller report… Continue reading

Sanders claims she didn’t lie, despite Mueller finding

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders pushed back Friday against… Continue reading

Most Read