GLACE BAY: It all started around his mother Kay’s kitchen table and what resulted was a tremendous political career that spanned two decades.
On Friday, in his hometown of Glace Bay, longtime Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner announced he would not be seeking re-election in the federal election this October.
Calling it the worst kept secret in Cape Breton, Cuzner advised a group of his supporters that he would not run for a seventh time, and considered stepping away from federal politics in December. Since then, he said, “the cement has hardened.”
“Folks, it’s been a great run. There are probably two reasons why I’m not re-offering: one is that I’m tired and the other is that I’m cranky,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with my decision today. I’m looking forward to working the next number of months through to the election to clean up some of the issues we were dealing with.”
Cuzner, who is 63-years-old, said it was a hard decision to make, but noted the travel around the large geographical riding has become a little less exciting.
“I think the people in this riding deserve to be served by somebody who just has that fire in their belly and wants to get out and really get it done,” he explained. “I just find I’m less inspired to get out and work the riding as hard as I have, and as hard as I believe the riding has to be worked.”
Despite controversy surrounding the SNC-Lavalin affair, Cuzner said what’s taken place in the past few months played no role in his decision to not re-offer.
“Absolutely not. I would be disappointed had our Prime Minister not wanted to explore every opportunity to save 9,000 jobs and countless thousands of pensioners,” he said. “I believe Justin Trudeau is still the right person to lead our country, if that was my only concern, I would be re-offering.”
Known in the House of Commons for his humor and wit, Cuzner is perhaps best known for his annual holiday rendition of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and has used his son’s Junior hockey career as a way to help explain local issues.
Over his 19-year career on the Hill, Cuzner couldn’t highlight just one project that he’s proud about as he’s been involved in numerous initiatives that have significantly benefited his riding such as; cleaning up the tar ponds, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex, and bringing 700 jobs to the citizenship and immigration office.
“Over 19-years it’s like which one of your kids do you like best – you just can’t single out one.”
Additionally, he also took the time to express concerns with current issues that he still finds himself scratching his head about. Cuzner referenced the high youth poverty rate in Cape Breton and said he doesn’t know why the child tax benefit, which has reduced poverty in every single province in the country, had a slight uptick in Nova Scotia.
He also spoke on the incarceration of David James Roach, who has been ordered extradited from the United Kingdom to Singapore to face bank robbery allegations.
Cuzner become emotional and choked up when he mentioned his late mother Kay, who he described as being “a bit of a Liberal” and having a tremendous impact on him.
“She really pushed back at first, she didn’t want me to throw my hat in the ring because I had a wife and three kids,” he said. “After three times going back to her, she gathered a group at her kitchen table and we ran with it from there.”
Paying tribute to his wife Lynn, Cuzner explained he was absent during the early years of his children’s life and she picked up the slack to raise their three boys, basically as a single parent.
When asked what the one thing he would have changed about his federal political career, Cuzner explained he would reverse his vote on same sex marriage.
“I thought I was doing what had to be done at the time, but that would be one I might want over again,” he said. “That would be one I’d handle different if I had more experience.”
Cuzner said he based his decision to vote against it on the results of a write-in poll that he completed within his constituency, which had 85 per cent against the bill.
Cuzner was first elected in 2000 and won five consecutive elections. In 2015, he received 74 per cent of the popular vote in the riding and didn’t lose one poll. He believed when he first arrived in Ottawa that his main fight would be to advocate for DEVCO and try to keep the mines operating, but it quickly became apparent that wasn’t the case.
Cuzner has held positions including parliamentary secretary to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, he’s currently parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and is on the standing committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.