Lethbridge MLA to step down, citing ‘polarization’ and ‘disinformation’

Shannon Phillips is stepping down as MLA in Lethbridge-West on July 1.

A prominent figure in the Official Opposition, Phillips was first elected in the riding in 2015, and served as the Minister of Environment and Parks from then until 2019 when the New Democratic Party (NDP) was in power.

“I am very proud of what I have accomplished throughout my political career,” said Phillips. “We have made significant gains in building the party outside of Edmonton and Calgary. Being elected for three terms outside of the major cities in Alberta shows that with focus, discipline and community connection, I could achieve something as a New Democrat that everyone told me was impossible just a decade ago.”

Phillips won her seat again in 2019 and 2023 and is currently serving as the NDP Finance Critic.

The party says Phillips was “instrumental” in Alberta’s coal phase-out policy, which improved human health, kickstarted Alberta’s renewables boom, created jobs and economic activity, and modernized the province’s electricity system.

“Shannon was an important leader in the Alberta NDP government and played a pivotal role in making sure country-leading environmental progress happened right here in Alberta,” said leader Rachel Notley.

The NDP MLA has less than a month left in the position, and cited feeling “worn out by the polarization and disinformation infecting today’s politics” as her reason for leaving.

“Jesus Christ himself couldn’t have kept me,” she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail ahead of Monday’s announcement.

Last month, Alberta’s police watchdog said there wouldn’t be any charges laid against police officers who broke rules when they surveilled Phillips.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) said there were reasonable ground to believe two Lethbridge police officers committed a crime when they did a criminal record check on the MLA, but the case didn’t meet a test to go to court.

The issue began in 2017, when an officer overheard Phillips discussing environmental issues in a coffee shop.

He texted a fellow officer and the two subsequently searched Phillips in police databases and photographed and followed her.

This comes in the midst of significant changes in the NDP, with a leadership race currently underway.

Notley said earlier this year she would step down from the top spot after a decade at the helm.

Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is considered the favourite to replace her, but doesn’t currently have a seat in the legislature.

Phillips’ departure opens up a spot for Nenshi, should he win the vote, which wraps up on June 22.

The MLA says her leaving the party has nothing to do with the leadership race, adding she is comfortable with whatever the outcome is, and is happy with the strength shown by increasing membership numbers.

Phillips says she is looking at opportunities in the private sector and is looking forward to spending more time with her two teenage children.

“I’ve always been a New Democrat, and I always will be,” she said.

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