By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Former Conservative interim leader and longtime Manitoba member of Parliament Candice Bergen announced Wednesday she is stepping down.
Bergen said in a video posted to Twitter that she submitted a letter of resignation as the representative for Portage-Lisgar following the party’s weekly caucus meeting.
“I won’t be going back into the House of Commons. I’m not really one for long goodbyes,” she said in the video.
She also thanked her family and colleagues in Ottawa, “regardless of your political stripe.”
Bergen was first elected to the rural — and reliably Conservative — Manitoba riding in 2008. She later served as the party’s deputy leader under former leader Erin O’Toole.
Her resignation comes a day before the one-year anniversary of when O’Toole was ousted by caucus and Bergen put her name forward to serve as the party’s interim leader.
Her tenure in that role ended last September when Pierre Poilievre became leader. Bergen announced a few days before his victory that she would not run in the next federal election.
Prospective successors include Manitoba finance minister Cameron Friesen, who said last week that he would be leaving cabinet to seek the nomination for Bergen’s seat.
His decision opens up a provincial seat in the area at a time when Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson is heading into an October election, with her Progressive Conservative government trailing the provincial New Democrats.
Bergen did not divulge her plans for the future in Wednesday’s departure video, saying only she believes that “the best is yet to come.”
But she said she was leaving at a time when she feels “hopeful and re-energized” about the state of the party — “hopeful for our strong and united Conservative party and our caucus under the courageous and principled leadership of my friend Pierre Poilievre.”
Many federal MPs credit Bergen with helping unite the party’s caucus, which found itself divided under O’Toole’s leadership and after the Conservatives lost the 2021 election to the Liberals.
“She listened to caucus, respected caucus and really united caucus around our fundamental principles that make up who we are as Conservatives and is defined under our policy declaration,” said James Bezan, another longtime Manitoba MP and friend of Bergen’s.
“She made sure that we kept that as our North Star.”
One of the ways Bergen quieted the divide in caucus was by withdrawing O’Toole’s short-lived policy to embrace a consumer carbon price.
“We’re stronger and united because of Candice Bergen,” Bezan said.
During her time as interim leader, Bergen also defended Conservatives for supporting protesters who descended on Ottawa as part of last winter’s “Freedom Convoy,” which clogged the streets around Parliament Hill for weeks.
Bergen accused Trudeau of dividing the country by pushing for COVID-19 vaccine mandates, saying in one of her first remarks as interim leader that he needed to extend an “olive branch” to demonstrators.
As the protest against COVID-19 measures and the federal government dragged on, however, she delivered an address in the House in which she asked those refusing to budge to move their vehicles.
During her time as interim leader, Bergen also told a room of party faithful gathered for a conference in Ottawa last May that Conservatives will not be able to attract disaffected Liberal voters into the fold by being a “Liberal lite” version of Trudeau’s party.
After 14 years as an MP I’m looking forward to the next chapter of life. Thank you Portage-Lisgar and Canada for the honour pic.twitter.com/2L11QFCQ2F
— Candice Bergen (@CandiceBergenMP) February 1, 2023