Nault won’t seek nomination after all

Kenora-Rainy River MP Robert Nault announced abruptly Monday morning that he won’t be seeking the federal Liberal nomination for the next election after all, effectively ending his 15-year career as an MP.
“After a great deal of reflection and discussion with my family and friends, I have decided not to seek the Liberal nomination to represent Kenora-Rainy River in the next federal election,” Nault said in a press release Monday.
“This decision has been very difficult both personally and professionally. It has been one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my life,” he admitted.
“I have determined, however, that it is the right one for my family, myself, and the constituents of Kenora-Rainy River,” he added.
Nault had said in December that he would seek the Liberal nomination despite losing his portfolio as Indian and Northern Affairs minister in Prime Minister Paul Martin’s new cabinet.
Nault even officially announced his candidacy Jan. 15.
But last week, Charles Fox, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Ontario, formally announced his intention to challenge Nault for the Liberal nomination in what will likely become the new Kenora riding by the next election (with Rainy River joining the current Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding).
He has accused Nault of souring relationships, particularly with First Nations leaders, and cited the proposed First Nations Governance Act as an example.
Fox said he was surprised by Nault’s sudden announcement Monday, but wished him well in his future endeavours.
“I want to thank Bob Nault for giving the last 15 years of his life to the riding,” Fox said in a phone interview yesterday. “If the occasion calls for he and I to work together on First Nations files, I welcome that.”
So far, no one else has stepped forward to seek the Liberal nomination but Fox said he would welcome competition.
“I’m sure other people will take an interest and as a Liberal contender, I welcome other parties who would be interested in that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, regardless of who runs, we as Liberals have to come together for the common cause in terms of the upcoming election,” he added.
Julian Morelli, Nault’s director of communications, said “it was a very personal decision, very difficult, and very well thought-out.”
When asked if Fox’s challenge had an effect on Nault’s decision, Morelli replied, “Absolutely not. This wasn’t about whether he would win or lose.”
“He’s won four elections. He’s never lost an election. The [campaign] team was well-placed, well-ready, and well-organized,” Morelli added. “It’s what’s best for Bob, and it’s time to move forward.”
“I have had the honour of serving my constituents over the past 15 years and it is now time to move on in my life and seek out new challenges,” Nault said in his press release.
He did not specify what those new challenges would be.
Nault also thanked the citizens of Kenora-Rainy River for their trust and respect, as well as former prime minister Jean Chrétien “for giving me the opportunity to serve in his cabinet.”
Before entering politics, Nault worked for CP Rail and was elected chairman of Local 431 of the United Transportation Union in 1986.
He headed the Kenora District Liberal Association from 1984-86 and also served on the Kenora town council from 1985-88.
He was first elected to represent Kenora-Rainy River in 1988, and was re-elected in 1993, 1997, and 2000.
While in Opposition, Nault served as labour critic, associate critic of aboriginal affairs, and associate critic for energy, mines, and resources.
After the 1993 election, Nault served as parliamentary secretary to the labour minister and to the minister of human resources development.
He was named minister of Indian and Northern Affairs in August, 1999, and held that portfolio until Chrétien’s retirement in December.