Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans is leaving Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative party to sit as an Independent in the provincial House of Assembly.
In a statement released on social media, Evans said she was no longer affiliated with the PC caucus as of 9 a.m. Monday.
"I have come to believe that the PC party is just not the right party for me and my district," Evans wrote. "I only ran as a MHA to help my district overcome the large gaps in services and infrastructure that continues to perpetuate the cycle of intergenerational trauma and disenfranchisement of my people."
After question period at the House of Assembly on Monday, Evans told reporters the decision had "been a while coming" for her.
"I just decided that now would be the best time to leave," she said.
"I was unhappy, very discouraged, and I thought, like any relationship if you stay where you're not happy, eventually things start to erode and you form bad relationships. I wanted to leave before that happened."
Evans, an Inuk from northern Labrador, was first elected in 2019, beating out Liberal incumbent Randy Edmunds.
Since then she's been a vocal advocate for the region, often highlighting gaps in housing and services among Labrador's Inuit communities.
"I come from a district that, I guess, is poor in infrastructure, poor in services and it's been going on since Confederation," she said.
"Since I've come into the House of Assembly as the MHA for the district of Torngat Mountains I've learned a lot of things that the general public is not aware of, basically how government works. The only way things change is to actually bring awareness to the general population."
Evans said she believes people trust the government — both Liberal and PC administrations — to trust them fairly, but her district has been cheated of services and supports it should already have.
"In government there's no fairness, there's no justice. It's really who can navigate the strongest, and right now I can't be a part of the PC Party. I have to stand as an Independent to bring that forward, and I'm going to do it the best way I can," she said.
"Over the [last] two years I started to see the writing, and I need to make sure that I'm true to what I promised to people."
The move raises the number of Independent MHAs sitting in the House to four — twice the number of NDP MHAs and the first time four Independents have sat in the House since 1968.
PC Leader David Brazil told reporters Evans's departure is unexpected, saddening and disappointing. He added he considers Evans a friend.
"I was disappointed she didn't reach out to me to have a conversation or to explain what her scenario is and her rationale for it," he said.
"But this is politics. Lela has made a decision around her political career and I respect that, and we as a caucus respect that in the House of Assembly."
Brazil said Evans was an engaged member of the PC Party who spearheaded conversations on Labrador and its Indigenous communities.
Brazil said his party was supportive of Evans over the last two years, but Evans said support waned when she pushed issues faced by residents of coastal Labrador, such as food insecurity.
"I expect support. I expect something to be done to help change this, and I'm not getting it. So I have to remove myself and I have to stand to try to educate the population," she said.
"I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff and there's updraft and I'm really careful not to get blown off the side of the cliff. But also, up here, there's a good clear view and my conscience is at ease."