Long-time Liberal MLA Keith Colwell will not reoffer in next N.S. election

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Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell fields questions at a news conference in this file photo. The veteran MLA says he is retiring from provincial politics. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell fields questions at a news conference in this file photo. The veteran MLA says he is retiring from provincial politics. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Long-time Liberal MLA Keith Colwell has decided not to reoffer in the next Nova Scotia election.

Colwell, currently minister of agriculture and minister of fisheries and aquaculture, has been an MLA for 23 of the past 28 years. He was first elected in 1993 in the riding of Eastern Shore, was defeated in 1999 and then rejoined the House of Assembly in 2003 as the representative for Preston. He narrowly beat incumbent David Hendsbee in 2003.

In an interview Monday, Colwell said he's been thinking about stepping down for some time, and informed Premier Iain Rankin of his decision over the weekend.

"I'm really happy with all the things we've finished and completed up to date, and I think it's time that I retire," he said.

Colwell, 73, said he's leaving provincial politics but has not decided what will come next.

The riding of Preston, made up in large part by the area's historic Black community, was abolished in 2012 and became part of the electoral district of Preston-Dartmouth. But following the next election, which is likely to be called this summer, Preston will once again have its own seat in the legislature.

The return of the electoral district was one of the 2019 recommendations from an independent electoral boundaries commission, and was meant to encourage greater participation of Black Nova Scotians.

'Better reflection of our population'

The Liberals have not yet nominated a candidate for Preston for the next provincial election, but Rankin said the party is actively looking for a Black candidate to represent the African Nova Scotian community. Colwell said he is helping with the recruitment effort.

"It's incredibly important that we have a better reflection of our population," Rankin told reporters Monday morning following the announcement of the new African Nova Scotian Justice Institute.

Rankin acknowledged there is currently only one African Nova Scotian in the legislature — Tony Ince — and said that small number is "unacceptable."

"Our team has been out aggressively trying to recruit African Nova Scotians and we hope to have more in the House after the election," he said.

Colwell said the Liberal Party's desire to field a Black candidate in the riding of Preston had nothing to do with his decision to retire.

The Progressive Conservatives are running Archy Beals; the New Democrats have yet to nominate a candidate.

Ten other Liberal MLAs, including several cabinet ministers, have already stepped down or announced they won't run again.

Former premier Stephen McNeil and one-time environment minister Margaret Miller both retired earlier this year. Joining them in departing whenever the next election is called will be Karen Casey, Mark Furey, Leo Glavine, Bill Horne, Geoff MacLellan, Chuck Porter, Lena Diab and Gordon Wilson.

Colwell currently earns more than $218,000 a year, which is more than the premier.

That's because in addition to his $89,234.90 MLA salary and the $49,046.51 top-up he receives as a cabinet minister, he qualified starting in 2018, when he turned 71, to receive an MLA pension. At that time, the pension was valued at $80,367 annually.

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