Voters in the Ontario riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London will be sending a new face to Queen’s Park when they head to the polls in June after longtime Tory MPP Jeff Yurek announced Friday he would not seek a fourth term and would resign from his seat at the end of February.
In a statement, Yurek said that he believed it was time for voters to “select a new voice to represent their interests in Queen’s Park.”
“My decision was not made lightly or in haste. In fact, it has been an arduous one because I will sincerely miss the day-to-day interactions with the people of Elgin-Middlesex-London,” he said.
In an interview with Global News Friday afternoon, Yurek said his decision to step away from public office came after months of conversations between himself, his wife, his daughter, and members of the community.
“(I) just feel it’s the right time to be leaving public life. I’ve accomplished quite a bit over those 10 years, and I’m very thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Yurek was first elected as MPP in Elgin-Middlesex-London in 2011 when he flipped the riding from Liberal to Conservative for the first time since its formation in 1999, beating Liberal candidate Lori Baldwin-Sands with his 19,711 to her 11,075 votes.
Yurek was re-elected again in 2014 and 2018 with solid leads, and since then has helmed several portfolios, serving as minister of natural resources and forestry in 2018, minister of transportation from 2018 to 2019, and minister of environment, conservation and parks from 2019 until this past June.
Asked why he was resigning at the end of February, leaving the riding without a dedicated provincial representative until June, Yurek said the time coincided with the end of the winter break for MPPs, when politicians head back to Queen’s Park.
“The focus will be mainly on revving up for the campaign that will start sometime in April or May,” he said.
“I just felt I’ve given as much support as possible to the people of the riding up until that time, and it’s best, as they’re focusing on the next campaign that I won’t be a part of, that it was a good opportunity to resign.”
Yurek said Karen Vecchio, the MP for the federal riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London, would likely fill-in to support constituents during the post-resignation, pre-election period, and that other local MPPs will also be available to help out.
“I’ve certainly helped out other regions certain times over my 10 years when constituents did need help outside of the region,” he said.
Yurek highlighted the 2015 passage of a private member’s bill he tabled making it illegal for schools to keep inhalers away from kids suffering from asthma as being a proud moment of his time as MPP.
The bill, Ryan’s Law, was named after Ryan Gibbons, a London-area boy who died in 2012 after suffering an asthma attack during recess at school. Despite repeated efforts by his mother, as well as a note from his doctor, Gibbon’s school did not allow him to keep his puffer with him.
“Working with Sandra Gibbons to get that bill passed… was an amazing experience,” he said.
A pharmacist before entering politics, Yurek said he didn’t have any particular plans yet for what he would do once out of office.
“I’m just going to focus on the constituency work, doing some more vaccination clinics and winding things up here at the office, and making sure people are looked after until the end of February, and then we’ll see where life goes from there,” he said.
“Certainly there’s an option,” in returning to the family pharmacy game, he said. “I still have my licence and I very much enjoyed the profession.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.