"Representing the people of Guelph is a great privilege. Service is an honour, but family is paramount. Indeed, fatherhood is a greater honour. It is for that reason that while I will continue to represent Guelph as its Member of Parliament until the next election is called, I will not be seeking re-election."
With those words, Frank Valeriote, the Liberal Party Member of Parliament for Guelph, laid out the new political reality for the Federal Election here in Guelph next year. It is now an open race with no incumbent running in the Royal City, as Valeriote in an emotional address shared with the media his desire to re-focus his attention to his family and find new ways to serve the Guelph community here are home.
During his statement, which you can watch for yourself in the video below, Valeriote got emotional several times outlining the personal reasons for his decision. "There are a lot of difficult decisions that come with a life in politics and this is certainly one of them," he said. "I have no doubt that the Liberals can and will form government under Justin Trudeau – and as exciting as the prospect of being in government is, I must and want to be able to spend more time with my children. I only get one chance at helping raise them."
Valeriote separated from his wife Catherine last fall, and he says that while his children - Olivia and Dominic - have adjusted well to the change in their family status, it's still difficult for Valeriote to be a father while spending most his week in Ottawa. "After the next election, I promise you I will continue to be active in our community, but it is time for me to find new outlets for being of service to the people of Guelph while spending good quality time with my children," he said.
While talking to the press after the main announcement, Valeriote said he had "pretty much made up his mind in August," but had begun thinking about making this term his last back in May. After discussions with the Liberal leader Trudeau, who asked Valeriote to give the issue more thought, the Guelph MP said that his mind was made up by the end of September/beginning of October, but he waited till after the municipal election and Remembrance Day to make an official statement. "I didn't want to be making this announcement while people's focus, rightfully, should be on more important things," he said.
Valeriote's unsure about his immediate plans once Parliament is dissolved at the start of the next election, he's not yet even sure if he might return to his old law firm Smith/Valeriote to practice law again. "I'm not entirely certain at this time," he said when asked about returning to his former law practice. His cousin John, who still works at Smith/Valeriote is the only one there who knew about MP Valeriote's decision. "It's going to be a shock to my old law firm that I've announced my resignation today because I kept it secret for the most part."
One concrete plan Valeriote does have is to continue his work with the Missionary Ventures Canada, which will next pursue a project to help build a skills/training school in South Sudan. He also expects that other offers to help out in the community will be made once the announcement of his retirement is digested by the public. "A life of service is a wonderfully satisfying and gratifying life," he said.
Before leaving office, Valeriote will also play a part in choosing the person who will succeed him as the Liberal Party candidate in Guelph, and may succeed him as Guelph's MP. "They'll seek my advice, and I'll mention names to them," he said of the local riding association. "I'm a succession planner by trade and by nature. I don't leave things and walk away, I make sure that any gaps there are, especially ones I may have created, are filled appropriately and properly. So I will work vigorously between now and the next election to identify candidates, and then once that person is chosen I will work with them up till the next election to make sure that their well vetted in the community so that there's a seamless transition from my leadership in the party locally, to their leadership in the party locally.
"It's very important in my opinion that a progressive community like Guelph remain Liberal," Valeriote added. "It's the best prospect for the needs of the people of Guelph. I've always believed that, and so have the people of Guelph, and I think that's why they elected me."
But Valeriote will not be sitting idle in either his Parliament Hill or constituency office for the next several months either. He will continue with his committee work, including co-chairing the policy platform committee, which consults on the construction of the Liberals' policy proposals for the 2015 election. He will also continue to work with veterans and on the environmental caucus, as well as the day-to-day issues brought to his attention as Guelph's MP.
Here's the video of Valeriote's address.