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Education Minister Doug Currie resigns

Teresa Wright/The Guardian  Doug Currie says he is leaving public life to pursue another, as yet undetermined, career. He says he enjoyed the challenge of transformation during his 11-year tenure in government.
Teresa Wright/The Guardian Doug Currie says he is leaving public life to pursue another, as yet undetermined, career. He says he enjoyed the challenge of transformation during his 11-year tenure in government.

“It’s time.”

Doug Currie says this is the main reason why he has resigned as education minister and as a member of the P.E.I. legislative assembly.

The resignation took effect immediately Thursday, but Currie says it is not as sudden a decision as it may appear.

“I’ve been in this business now for 11 years,” he said.

“I’m in my 57th year, so I felt that if I want to have a potential new opportunity, the window closes fairly quickly at certain ages, so I feel right now I’m in that window that I have another opportunity to do something.”

With two years to the next scheduled provincial election, Currie says departing now allows the Liberal party ample time to find a replacement for his seat, which under the newly drawn electoral map will be District 11, Charlottetown-Belvedere.

“I owe it to the party that I make sure I give them time to look at a potential candidate, an opportunity to keep my seat strong.”

During a sit-down interview with The Guardian Thursday, Currie said he had always told himself he would never seek a fourth mandate.

But this is counter to what he told the paper during an informal conversation a few months ago, when he said he was indeed planning to run again in the next election and that he was “in it for the long haul.”

When asked what changed between then and now, Currie cited the transitions in the school system during the recent school review as the reason for saying he planned to reoffer.

The former educator and school principal says he didn’t want to become an elected official who was “hanging on and hanging on,” but rather wanted to go out on his own terms.

By leaving now, at age 57 in good health, other employment opportunities are now open to him, he said.

And he is indeed interested in a new job.

“I want another opportunity. I’m really motivated and excited to do something different,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have anything immediately lined up or in mind at this time.

Currie acknowledged his time in office was difficult at times, especially in leading ministries going through transformational and often controversial changes.

Currie served twice as health minister and twice as education minister during his 11-year tenure in office.

In those roles, he stick-handled a number of heated policy changes, many of which provoked strong backlash and heated public debate, including: primary health care reform, including the transformation of rural hospitals into long-term care and alternate care centres; the disbanding of regional health authorities and creation of Health P.E.I.; the debate about P.E.I.’s former abortion policy; the introduction of Kindergarten into the school system; the disbanding of the English school board and creation of the Public Schools Branch and the 2016-17 school review and rezoning.

Currie admits he did not always agree with some of the policy decisions he was asked to champion, although he declined to go into specifics.

Cabinet and caucus decisions are made on a consensus basis, which sometimes means dissenting views.

“I’ve always respected decision-making process and the final decisions the party would take – it didn’t mean I always agreed with them, because I didn’t. Some I did, some I didn’t - but at the end of the day, that’s how democracy works,” he said.

UPEI political scientist Peter McKenna noted politics is often thankless work that can take a personal toll.

He says he was surprised to learn Currie was leaving politics, but also felt people should not necessarily read too much into it.

“Doug Currie is an experienced member of that cabinet and has held some of the more difficult and challenging portfolios, so it is a blow to a government, it’s a setback for sure,” he said.

“But it’s also an opportunity for someone else in the caucus to move into cabinet and to shine and to learn and to grow in the job.”

Currie says he “loved the challenge of transformation,” but wants to take some time to find a new path.

He did not rule out returning to public office sometime in the future.

“I would never close the door to any opportunity and I don’t know where I will be in two or three or four or five years. I’m going to keep all my options open.”

Premier Wade MacLauchlan recognized Currie’s contributions and leadership during his time in office.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac has agreed to take on the role of acting Minister of Education until the premier chooses a more permanent replacement.

As per the Election Act, government has six months to call a byelection to fill Currie’s now vacant seat in Charlottetown.

 

Teresa.wright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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