Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski has called it a career.
Surrounded by family and friends, an emotional Jablonski told her supporters on Monday that it was with sadness and mixed emotions that she decided not to seek a sixth term.
“There comes a time when you need to spend more time with your family,” said Jablonski. “I want to be home at night with my husband and I want to be here in Red Deer with my grandkids. … It’s just time for me to move on.”
The five-term MLA will serve until the next provincial election is called.
Jablonski predicted that will happen in April.
But she said she leaves knowing that Alberta is “in good hands” under the leadership of Premier Jim Prentice.
“I have no doubt in my mind that history will see Jim Prentice as one of Alberta’s greatest premiers,” said Jablonski.
Jablonski said it was a privilege to serve Red Deerians and Albertans for nearly 15 years. She thanked her family, staff and supporters, who have been at her side from Day 1.
She was elected in a 2000 byelection to fill a spot left vacant by Stockwell Day, who left to run federally for the Canadian Alliance Party.
Over the years, Jablonski served on numerous committees and task forces. She was also the minister of Seniors and Community Supports under former premier Ed Stelmach.
On Monday, Jablonski said one highlight was when she was granted unanimous consent of the legislature to set aside the orders of the day and proceed with early consideration of her private member’s bill, Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act. The legislation gives parents the right to seek treatment for their children who have drug and alcohol addictions.
“Ministers told me that I would not able to get (the bill) passed and it would never be proclaimed,” said Jablonski. “But with the help of desperate parents and others who cared about kids, we did what couldn’t be done.”
She is still greeted by parents who thank her for helping their children to be free of their addictions.
Another milestone in her career was her advocacy work alongside the families or residents and others to keep Michener Centre open.
“Although I believe it was important for people to live in our communities,” she said, “I don’t think it was right to send our Michener Centre residents out in the community at the ages they were at. I know it would help our budget to shut all Michener down but I think it is just too important to the lives of those people. I was tremendously grateful when Premier Prentice made the decision to keep Michener open.”
Jablonski also counts keeping the doors open to Kentwood Place, supportive housing for people with schizophrenia, among her career highlights.
“At one point someone wanted to shut it down,” she recalled. “I think it was one of the only times as minister I put my foot down and said ‘No way.’ Kentwood goes on to be a very successful place.”
Jablonski served under five Alberta premiers — Ralph Klein, Stelmach, Alison Redford, Dave Hancock and Prentice.
She said people either loved or hated Klein but the more she knew him, the more she realized what a gift he was to Alberta.
“Premier Stelmach had the biggest heart of any premier in Canada,” said Jablonski. “Premier Redford provided challenges as we all know. Premier Hancock was an extremely wise man. … Serving with Jim Prentice is extremely remarkable.”
In March 2013, Jablonski made history by becoming the first female Speaker of the house to preside over Question Period, in Alberta’s 28th legislature. Speaker of the House Gene Zwozdesky was away for the day.
While she said there were some serious moments of maintaining order and decorum in the house, there were some exciting and fun times.
Jablonski said the rule is when the Speaker stands, you sit — but sometimes the official Opposition did not respect the rules.
“I had to be very assertive and say to one of the (official Opposition) when I stand, you sit. He sat,” she laughed.
She helped develop and launch Alberta Supports, a one-stop program that eliminates duplication and streamlines social-based provincial programs and services.
Three or four people are expected to put their names on the Red Deer North Progressive Conservative nomination ballot. Jablonski said she will not endorse any candidates but will be there as a resource for the hopefuls.
Mayor Tara Veer, among other dignitaries, was on hand for the news conference. Veer called Jablonski a longtime close, personal friend.
“She has served not only Red Deer North well, but the community well and Albertans well,” said Veer. “We certainly wish her the best in her future endeavours. We are just proud to call her our own.”
Addressing rumours that she may seek the PC nomination, Veer said she was given a four-year mandate as mayor and she will keep her election promises.
Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas has not said whether he will seek another term. He is expected to make an announcement next week. Dallas said Jablonski will be a tough act to follow and the new MLA will have big shoes to fill.
Jablonski said she will volunteer in the community and perhaps work in the family business. She said she will continue to be a strong supporter of the PC Party and Prentice. She predicted another PC victory in the next provincial election.