By Rob South
After eight years in office, Calgary’s lone Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly is leaving public office. Calgary Buffalo MLA Gary Dickson declared last week that he will not seek re-election in the next provincial election, honouring a campaign promise he made in his first election.
"Before I ran in 1992, I realized it was important to decide, before you start, how long you will do this," said Dickson about his decision. "It really is as simple as that."
Dickson filled a number of roles for the Liberal party during his term in office, including health care critic and Liberal house leader.
Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth was saddened by Dickson’s decision, but pleased that he will be helping the party in the next election.
"We are losing a very valuable member of our caucus," said Macbeth. "He showed very fundamental commitment to the equity of all people through human rights, freedom of information and privacy issues."
Before he became an MLA, Dickson was a practicing lawyer and was once the President of the Alberta Civil Liberties Association. Dickson is not sure whether he will return to the legal profession when his term as a MLA ends.
"It might be interesting to do something completely different," said Dickson.
For the past 15 years the downtown riding of Calgary Buffalo has voted Liberal, with Sheldon Chumir holding the seat prior to 1992. Dickson does not believe his departure will affect his party’s chances of retaining the seat.
Political observers agree that Calgary Buffalo is a Liberal stronghold.
"It is the only area in the city where [the Liberals] have consistent support," said University of Calgary Political Scientist Tom Flanagan. "That’s their best shot at winning a seat."
There are already a number of candidates lining up to replace Dickson. The Progressive Conservative Party has nominated Calgary Police Inspector Harvey Cenaiko as their candidate.
"I tip my hat to Gary, he served the riding well," said Cenaiko. "This has been Liberal for 15 years, but this is a new era in Calgary Buffalo. The PC party has a strong foundation, which will take us in a new direction to the government side of the house."
The Liberals have not yet nominated a candidate in the riding, but they expect several people to seek the nomination. Well-known Calgary lawyer Brian Edy already declared that he will seek the Liberal nomination.
"I share the concern Gary has about health care and education," said Edy. "We need to realize that education provides us the means to compete globally."
The Liberals will decide their nominee for Calgary Buffalo at a nomination meeting on Sept. 21. No location has been established for this meeting.