Nova Scotia Justice Minister Diana Whalen will not run again in the next provincial election, leaving the Liberals without one of their most dependable and popular candidates.
Whalen, who also serves as deputy premier and is MLA for Clayton Park West, made the announcement on Friday. She informed Premier Stephen McNeil of her decision following Thursday's cabinet meeting.
"It was a hard decision to make. I love the work I do, I love representing my community," she told reporters.
"But I think there's a time when you have to look at the balance in life and this is my moment."
Whalen had a heart attack in December and took a leave of absence. She said her health is fine now, but if she were re-elected it would mean four more years of hard work that is "all-consuming" and Whalen said she needs more balance.
"I feel great today and I haven't had any trouble being back for the last two months."
Sitting beside his colleague since 2003, McNeil called it huge personal loss. While he wasn't surprised by the news, McNeil said he was saddened, adding he had always hoped they would leave politics at the same time.
"My career and Diana's career have been linked from the very beginning."
The kind of MLA people want: McNeil
That link includes competing against each other for the party leadership in 2007, a race that came down to the two of them being separated by just a handful of ballots. McNeil played down any suggestion the race strained their connection, saying that — if anything — the experience brought the two closer together.
In 2003, Whalen was the only woman in a caucus that today has ten women. McNeil said their shared legacy is a caucus that better reflects how the province looks today.
He paid tribute to Whalen's work as an MLA, including efforts to bring the Canada Games Centre to her district, protect the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area and get a February holiday for the province.
"She's exactly the kind of person that I believe Nova Scotians would want to represent them."
Rewards outweigh difficulties
When the Liberals first formed government, Whalen was appointed finance minister. It wasn't always an easy time. When the government changed the film tax credit, many in the industry held her responsible for the decision and condemned initial changes they feared would damage the industry.
While politics is a challenging career, Whalen said it is also "tremendously rewarding" work which she recommends to anyone who wants to get involved. She doesn't know what's next for her, but Whalen said she would continue to be involved in her community, just as she always has.
"The rewards far outweigh the difficulty," she said. "I look back on it with great pride."