JOHN ROBBINS and LISA RIND/Bullet News
NIAGARA FALLS – Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor has resigned his seat.
His resignation was effective at 1 p.m. Tuesday and was made public by way of a media release.
“The job of being the Provincial Member of Parliament has been an immensely satisfying job,” Craitor said in a press release.
“I was extremely proud and particularly honoured to have been elected three times to represent the people of Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake and in the first term the people in Thorold-South. I want to thank them very much for their support and encouragement over the years. Together we have done many great things.”
Craitor continued: “I also want to thank Premier Wynne, the people in the Premier’s office and the Liberal Party, both provincially and locally for helping me make things happen. I also want to mention and thank the support, hard work and loyalty of the staff I that have enjoyed over the last 10 years.”
Craitor could not be reached for comment immediately.
Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement around the same time as the media release from Craitor’s office was sent.
“Today, Kim Craitor advised me of his resignation and that he is stepping down as the MPP for Niagara Falls, effective immediately,” wrote Wynne.
“Kim was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003 and has a long history of public service in his community. Over the last ten years, he has served as Parliamentary Assistant in various portfolios, including Community and Social Services, Energy and Infrastructure, Tourism and Culture, and Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Wynne continued: “I thank him for his service and wish him luck in his future endeavours. A byelection will be called within the next six months,” Wynne concluded.
Media calls to Craitor’s consituency office Tuesday afternoon were being redirected to the local Liberal riding association.
Riding president Karen Gansel had this to say of Craitor’s resignation.
“I certainly have mixed emotions, having received Kim’s resignation today,” Gansel told Bullet News. “He has been an excellent member of parliament for Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.
“He has been a proud member of parliament for the last 10 years and we are proud to have had him as our MPP. He will certainly be missed.”
Gansel said nothing about the reason Craitor’s decision to retire at this time.
“We will be setting up a search to replace him in the riding association and await a byelection in the next few months … We thank Mr. Craitor for his service and unfortunately can’t comment further at this time.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said he was surprised to hear of Craitor’s decision to resign. He said he was not given a heads-up ahead of time, but, rather, learned of Craitor’s decision by way of the media.
“I am certainly very sad to hear the news,” said Diodati, adding the people of Niagara Falls and Niagara are “losing a deeply passionate and compassionate representative.”
“You can criticize Kim for a lot of things … but one thing you can’t criticize him for is his dedication to the riding,” said the mayor. “He’s definitely leaving a big pair of shoes to fill.”
Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin said he, too, was surprised to learn of Craitor’s decision.
“He really kept that close to his chest,” said Martin, Tuesday evening.
Martin credited Craitor for having Fort Erie’s best interests in mind and fighting for causes – such as the effort to keep the Fort Erie Race Track open – at Queen’s Park.
“He was right there fighting with us,” said Martin.
As someone who has spent decades in politics, Martin knows well the toll public life can take on elected officials and their families.
Craitor, he said, was the kind of representative who always tried to make it to as many functions as he could, even when that meant criss-crossing the riding multiple times every weekend from morning to night.
“Kim gave all of his time (to the job),” said Martin. “If anyone deserves a rest, it’s him.”
While Craitor is no longer the MPP and will not be available at his offices, the Niagara Falls Provincial Riding Community office on Montrose Road will remain open and staffed and continue to serve until an election or byelection is held and a new MPP for Niagara Falls is elected.
Anyone having difficulty accessing provincial government programs is requested to call 905-357-0681 Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to noon.
Craitor, who turned 67 two days ago, served as a Niagara Falls alderman, before winning a seat in the Legislature in 2003. He was re-elected in 2007 and 2011.
While a loyal Liberal party member, Craitor had left-leaning tendencies that often had him siding with New Democrats, if only in spirit.
In a Twitter message to her followers, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath extended best wishes to Craitor.
“Wishing all the best to Kim Craitor. Thank you for your many years of service,” Horwath wrote.
He earned a reputation as a “constituency man,” who spoke out on behalf of residents, even when that put him at odds with official party policy.
During his tenure, he pushed for greater transparency and openness in government, even though a private-members bill with that as its theme he put forward never went anywhere.
He was also a champion for the rights of grandparents seeking greater voice in child custody cases and the right of the public to access the shoreline of the Great Lakes without obstruction from private property owners.
Perhaps one of his biggest accomplishments was pushing for an overhaul of the Niagara Health System, the public trust corporation that manages most of Niagara’s hospitals.
He, along with Diodati, urged the province to appoint a hospital supervisor to take direct control of the NHS to deal with issues surrounding governance, finances, service cuts and an erosion of public confidence.
Hospital supervisor Kevin Smith was appointed in late August 2011 to do just that. Last year, Smith recommended building a new hospital to serve south Niagara. Craitor has been supportive of both Smith and his recommendations.
Responding to an email from Bullet News Tuesday afternoon seeking comment, Smith said he has appreciated Craitor’s support and input during his two-year tenure and he will be missed.
“ I have very much enjoyed a strong working relationship with Mr. Craitor since my tenure began as NHS Supervisor,” said Smith.
“Kim has been a great champion for the citizens of his riding and is very passionate about the best possible healthcare for the region. I know that the NHS could and can count on Kim for honest and frank feedback, which I highly cialis online value. I will really miss working with him and wish him well,” Smith added.
Craitor’s departure means Premier Wynne will have to call a byelection within six months. Given that the Liberals hold only a minority in the Legislature, it’s possible the government might not survive that long or Wynne herself may decide to seek a new mandate for her party, which has been in power for a decade.
Craitor, who won handily in his first two outings, was only narrowly returned to office two years ago, having survived strong campaigns by both the Progressive Conservatives and NDP.
Former Niagara Falls PC MPP Bart Maves is the nominated candidate for that party in the Niagara Falls riding. The Niagara Falls NDP riding association has not yet selected a candidate.
In 2011, the PC candidate in Niagara Falls was Niagara-on-the-Lake businessman George Lepp. The NDP candidate was former Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop.
(This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.)
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