Jun. 14, 2006 - Issue #556: Hot Summer Guide 2006
Dr Raj Pannu retires (the machine, presumably, keeps on running)
The 73-year-old retired university professor and longtime MLA for the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in the next provincial election.
“I won’t run again, no,” Pannu confirmed in a phone interview with Vue on the eve of his announcement. “I will be 74 by next January, and elected office is a 24 hour a day job, and I’ve loved every minute of it, but I need to slow down, so I think it’s a good time.
“It will be at least 10 years [since first being elected in 1997] by the time the next election rolls around, and I’m getting deep into my golden years, so I think it’s time to step aside,” he continues, stressing that he is not “quitting” politics but is merely indicating that he intends not to run again.
“I will serve out my term,” Pannu insists. “I have no intention of just throwing my hands up in the air and leaving.”
Dr Pannu was born in the Punjab area of India in 1934, where he completed
a Bachelors of Education degree before immigrating to Canada in 1962. Upon
his arrival, Pannu and his wife Swinder settled in Whitecourt, AB, where he
taught high school. He moved to Edmonton in 1964 to pursue graduate studies
at the University of Alberta, where he received a doctorate in Sociology in
1973 and was a member of the faculty of Educational Policy Studies and
Sociology until his retirement in 1996.
After retiring from academia, Pannu was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in March of 1997, and took over leadership of the New Democratic Party of Alberta in February of 2000 following the departure of former leader Pam Barrett. He led the party during the 2001 provincial election in which he was re-elected using the tongue-in-cheek slogan “Raj Against the Machine” to articulate his position in relation to what he then called the “Tory juggernaut” that nearly swept the province.
Citing his advancing age, Pannu stepped down as leader of the NDP in early 2004, although he stayed on as the party’s deputy leader and helped the New Democrats double their number of legislature seats in the 2004 provincial election.
According to Pannu, Wednesday’s announcement is just another step in his gradual exit from public life.
“I stepped down as leader earlier, so this is just a continuation of the winding down of my political career,” he explains. “My hope is that it will be someone with some fresh ideas and some youthful energy that takes my place.”
While the next provincial election is likely still a couple of years away, interested parties are quietly campaigning for nomination in Pannu’s riding.
So far, the unofficial front-runner in the race to replace Dr Pannu is Rachel Notley, daughter of former Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley, who was killed in a plane crash in 1984 after leading the party for over 16 years. V
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