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Shannon Phillips stepping down as Lethbridge-West MLA


Shannon Phillips, the MLA for Lethbridge-West, is stepping down from her position.

Phillips made the announcement during a media availability at the Galt Museum in Lethbridge on Monday afternoon.

She said her decision was made based on several factors, including wanting to step away from public life and pursue other opportunities.

“Now is the right time for the party and me personally,” Phillips said Monday.

“The leadership race since January has shown me that the Alberta NDP is stronger across the province and right here in Lethbridge than it ever has been before.”

Her resignation is effective July 1.

Phillips has represented the riding since 2015, first serving as environment minister under the NDP. She is currently the finance critic for the Official Opposition.

“I’m exploring opportunities in the private sector. I’m also looking at ways I can give back to the community through teaching and writing. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about all of that in the coming months,” she said.

Trevor Harrison, a political scientist with the University of Lethbridge, said the timing of the announcement is surprising.

“Of course, the leadership convention is still to be held to pick a new leader for the NDP. So the timing is a little bit interesting that way. But I think the fact that she's leaving though is not terribly much of a surprise,” Harrison said.

In the eyes of many, both here and outside the province, Phillips' tenure brought a new view of Alberta's care for the environment.

"Seeing somebody advocating both for the oil industry and pipelines on the one hand and for the environment on the other, I think it helped Albertans feel a little bit better about their international reputation," said Lori Williams, political science professor at Mount Royal University.

"She’s a bit of an isolated representative in southern Alberta."

"I think she became known for a lot of things that at least some Albertans appreciate a great deal," Williams continued.

"I think the leadership race showcases some of the talents, the bench strength if you like, of the NDP."

News of the announcement comes two weeks after it was revealed that no charges would be laid against two police officers who broke the rules, illegally surveilling the MLA  in 2017 as she was discussing a proposed new park while she was the NDP's environment minister.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) later found the officers had committed criminal offences, but the test for prosecution was not met.

“I will say that it is obvious I think to everyone that what happened to me at the hands of the Lethbridge Police Service, has by my read of it not happened very often if at all to any elected official,” she said.

After the decision on May 27, Phillips said she was relieved the situation was resolved but it was "unacceptable" that an elected official was treated that way.

“Politics has become unfortunately more than just vicious, at times, really quite stupid towards women in particularly it’s been very difficult. Shannon has been through an awful lot during her time as MLA,” Harrison said.

Garett Spelliscy, executive director of the Alberta NDP, says more than 85,000 people joined the NDP in order to vote in the leadership race.

"That's the biggest version of the Alberta NDP that has ever existed," Spelliscy said.

Voting is open to party members until noon on June 22.

There are four candidates left: Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Kathleen Ganley, Sarah Hoffman and former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

With files from CTV News Calgary's Bill Macfarlane, CTV News Lethbridge’s Quinn Keenan and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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