Krueger won't run in next election: 'I've reached my shelf life'
Daily News Staff Reporter
with The Canadian Press
Liberal Party stalwart, former cabinet minister, 16-year MLA, husband, father and grandfather, Kevin Krueger is ending his political career with the May 13, 2013, election.
Krueger, who became choked up at times during a Wednesday morning interview, said he's loved the job, but the time has come to return to ICBC, where he worked before his leap into politics.
"I've reached my shelf life," he said.
He said he originally expected to run for two terms, but with electoral success, that changed to four terms. When the Liberals kept getting voter support, Krueger kept going, too.
He has never shied away from controversy, taking shots for calling hospital workers "toilet cleaners," saying Liberal Party defector John van Dongen was a self-serving, jealous little man, and heckling the NDP in the legislature where his deep voice has garnered him the nicknames "Foghorn" and "Boom Box."
Now 57, Krueger said his proudest accomplishment while in office was the establishment of Thompson Rivers University.
"When Claude Richmond and I walked away from the announcement, I said, 'I doubt we'll ever get a bigger thing done.'"
The university brought open learning, international students and, with Krueger pushing then-premier Gordon Campbell, the first new law school in Canada in 30 years.
Krueger said he almost gave up politics before the 2004 election, but his wife Debbie urged him on. He found that surprising, as it was usually him pushing to run and her resisting.
"My wife said look at the stuff you're getting done," he recalled. "With an endorsement like that, I was ready to run again."
His biggest disappointment was the Harmonized Sales Tax and the public backlash that forced the Liberals to reverse it.
"In hindsight, we would have been better to consult for two years on it," he said. "I believe it was good."
Last year, he was delegated to the back benches after holding cabinet portfolios that included small business and revenue, deregulation, community development, tourism, culture and arts and social development.
Without that cabinet work, Krueger said he's had more time to read, walk, cycle and spend time with family.
He's lost weight and read books that have nothing to do with politics, such as the Book of Negroes and an e-reader book about Abraham Lincoln.
Premier Christy Clark, who put Krueger on the sidelines, said in a statement he is one of the most dedicated public servants she's ever met.
"He has been a tireless advocate for his community and the entire region. We've seen the transformation of Thompson Rivers University, the upgrades to Royal Inland and highway improvements — all things Kevin has advocated for. But what the public may not have seen is the work Kevin does quietly behind the scenes for his constituents, how he personally works the files to get the outcome that works for people," she said.
"Everyone who knows Kevin understands how hardworking he is, and they know his compassion and his uncompromised integrity. He stands up for what he believes, and we're lucky to have had his service for so long."
Fellow Kamloops MLA Terry Lake said he's known for a while that Krueger was considering his future.
"It's normal after 17 years of serving the public and working as hard as Kevin does to think about other options and spend time with family," he said.
"I have mixed feelings about it. I think B.C.'s losing a great public servant. But I'm excited for him, too, to take some R and R and spend time with family."
He said the legislature won't be quite as colourful without Krueger, but the search for a new Kamloops-South MLA will give the party some renewal.
"Kevin has been a true friend and a real supporter of mine."
Despite speculation he might take Krueger's spot and leave the Kamloops-North Thompson riding to the newcomer, Lake said he'll stay put.
"I am going to run in Kamloops-North Thompson. We need to win that riding and I am committed to the constituents I've developed a close relationship with. I've started some things I want to see through."
B.C. Conservative regional director Alan Forseth was more suspicious about Krueger's departure from politics.
"Having run against him as a candidate in the 1996 election, I know that Kevin is not a man to take lightly; he campaigns hard to win," he said.
"To give credit where credit is due, he did work hard for constituents. That said, with an growing list of issues, which are calling in to question the ability of constituents to vote for the B.C. Liberals, he could well have been questioning his own ability to continue support for Premier Clark."
NDP Leader Adrian Dix also commended Krueger for his ability to get elected four times and for the work he put in, even though they locked horns many times in the legislature.
"He's had a long run and he won four elections, which is to his credit. And I know we'll be hearing from him in the future," he said.
"I just kind of accept what he said. He's been MLA for 16 years and it was time to move on, and spending more time in Kamloops. I just wish him well. . . . For me, especially on a day like this, you just want to acknowledge people's contribution. That doesn't mean we didn't disagree."
Krueger said his family is happy about his decision and he's looking forward to watching his seven grandchildren play soccer and other activities.
He will miss the job, however.
"The thing I've always liked most is getting things done for constituents," he said.
He believes there are a few strong possible contenders to replace him. The constituency association will start that process in fall.