South Okanagan MP Atamanenko eyes retirement

With just under two years to go before the next federal election, MP Alex Atamanenko announced he won’t be running for office again.

Alex Atamanenko

Alex Atamanenko

With just under two years to go before the next federal election, MP Alex Atamanenko announced he won’t be running for office again.

The NDP MP for B.C. Southern Interior said he considered the move for more than a year.

“I wanted to be able to make that announcement as soon as possible so we can start doing some work on the ground and get another candidate,” said Atamanenko. “That’s the reason I made it now as opposed to a year from now.”

Atamanenko is in the midst of his third term as MP, but he was involved in politics since 2003, running and losing against Conservative MP Jim Gout in 2004, before coming back in 2006 to win and again in 2008. In 2011, he won once more, with 50.9 per cent of the vote.

“People ask me why I am doing this. In two years I am going to be 70 years old. I think that’s a respectable time to take one’s retirement,” said Atamanenko. “The first time I retired from teaching, I was 55. I think this will be my final retirement.”

Atamanenko calls his time as MP the most  enriching experience of his life. Since 2006, he has held several critic portfolios, including food security, rural affairs, and agriculture.

“It’s been so challenging. I’ve met so many dedicated people, I’ve had a chance to travel the country,” he said. “I’ve been working with so many people, whether its farmers or farm organizations or others fighting for social justice.”

B.C. Southern Interior is a diverse riding, stretching from the Okanagan Valley to the Kootenays. Atamanenko said he has been fortunate to explore the riding and its many small communities, rather than just drive through as many travellers do.

“I’d like to thank Alex for his contributions to our caucus and our movement,” said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. “He has been a great representative for BC Southern Interior.”

The upcoming redistribution of federal riding boundaries was not a factor in his decision not to run again, Atamanenko said.

“I was thinking about the possibility of doing this as early as before the last election. I would have made that same decision had the boundaries stayed the same.”

Looking down the road to his retirement in two years, Atamanenko said his wife, Ann, is supportive of his decision.

“I think my next job is going to be to get a good winter’s wood supply in and just hang out at home, maybe play a little music, keep my ski legs strong for some more powder skiing.”

“I’ve been proud to serve the people of BC Southern Interior,” said Atamanenko. “As I look ahead to retirement in two years, I’d like to thank my constituents for electing me to represent their interests in Ottawa.”