Shannon Martin is the latest Manitoba PC MLA to opt out of upcoming election

Shannon Martin, a long-time backbencher who says he has at times rubbed people the wrong way has become the latest Manitoba Progressive Conservative to decide not to run in the provincial elected slated for Oct. 3.

Martin joins several other Tories who have announced in recent months that they are leaving politics. These departures come at a time when the governing Tories continue to trail the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls.

“Political life is a lot like a relationship. You’re always going to have highs and lows and sometimes things just don’t work
out,” Martin, 52, said in an interview Wednesday.

“And you need to make that decision that the best thing for me, personally, and for my family is to simply move on to new opportunities.”

Roughly one-third of the Tories elected in 2019 —13 of 36 MLAs — have resigned their seats in recent months or have announced they will not run again. Some have been high-profile cabinet ministers, such as former finance minister Cameron Friesen, who announced last month he was quitting to run for the federal Conservative nomination in Portage-Lisgar.   

Martin was first elected in a 2014 byelection in Morris, a strong Tory seat south of Winnipeg, and was re-elected two years later.

When his seat disappeared under electoral boundary redistribution, he was given a nomination in a more NDP-leaning constituency, McPhillips, which includes parts of northern Winnipeg and some rural areas. He won again.

Despite a reputation as a hard worker and previous experience with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Martin was never given a cabinet post, even as most other Winnipeg-area Tories were during various cabinet shuffles under former premier Brian Pallister and his successor Heather Stefanson.

Martin announced plans to run for the Tory leadership during the contest that Stefanson won in 2021, but he fell short of the 1,000 new membership sales that were required to enter the race.

Martin said he has no regrets about his political career, but did not go into detail.

“I’ll be honest, I probably rubbed a few people the wrong way — especially the powers that be — over the years. But I stand by every choice I made.”

One political analyst said it was never clear why Martin, who holds some of the same progressive views on social issues that Stefanson does, was passed over for cabinet.

“I don’t know why he was excluded [and] wasn’t designated to play a bigger role,” said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Martin said he is confident that there will be no shortage of interested candidates for the Tory nomination in McPhillips.

“I support our premier,” he said. “I think she has a significant job ahead of her, but she has proven herself to be a
capable leader who will take this party forward into the next election, and successfully.”

Exodus began with Fielding

The exodus of PC MLAS began in June 2022 with the resignation of Scott Fielding, the minister responsible for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. He was replaced by former city councillor Kevin Klein in a tightly contested byelection.

Deputy premier Cliff Cullen, Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke Labour Minister Reg Helwer and Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere later announced they won’t run again, as did Speaker Myrna Driedger and backbenchers Ralph Eichler, Blaine Pedersen, Dennis Smook, Cathy Cox and Ian Wishart.

Friesen outright resigned.

Martin’s announcement leaves the PCs with one MLA yet to declare whether he intends to run again: Brad Michaleski (Dauphin).

The rest of the caucus intends to compete this fall.

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