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How Old Is Too Old in Politics?



This is an edition of Up for Debate, a newsletter by Conor Friedersdorf. On Wednesdays, he rounds up timely conversations and solicits reader responses to one thought-provoking question. Later, he publishes some thoughtful replies. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Last week, I asked: “How should voters assess the physical and mental fitness of politicians, and how should the press cover such matters?”

Bekke points out that voters have a tough job:

How to decide who is mentally fit to serve is a true conundrum. Like beauty, it is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Media can be a big influence and paid ads can sway voters. Given the First Amendment, it’s difficult to throttle “free speech” regardless of its veracity. In the end, it comes down to the voters doing their due diligence and really paying attention to the candidate’s policies, rather than listening to media hype and attack ads.

Glenn believes that the matter calls for impolite journalism, a necessity that is heightened by a generational characteristic of Baby Boomers:

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If the World War II generation was the “Greatest Generation,” then the Baby Boomer generation is the “longest generation.” They refuse to retire; can’t imagine retiring; won’t retire!

The Greatest Generation made its name and reputation on the battlefields of Europe, all the time looking to return home to a normal life with their family, whether it existed yet or not. Once home in the postwar era, they set about building a career, a life, a family, and a nation, but always looked to retirement when they could enjoy the fruits of their labor in a much more private manner. The Baby Boomers are nothing like that. They have never contemplated any life beyond a professional one. And so their plan seems to be to hang on to whatever power, prestige, or routine their work affords them for as long as possible.

We all value this stubborn “not gonna quit” mentality, and of course many of us can be highly functional assets to our chosen profession very late in life. But it is equally apparent that many of us can and do lose some of our acuity and utility as we grow older. This physical reality, coupled with the psychological makeup of our current eldest generation, has forced the burden of determining “when it’s time to go,” from the individual to the rest of society. None of us are comfortable making these decisions within our own families, much less for someone else’s family. These decisions are being made privately in company boardrooms and family living rooms all over America today. But in the political arena, such decisions are necessarily made in a very public setting.

Voting is a big responsibility. Every citizen is asked to make very difficult and messy boardroom and living-room decisions for our nation in a very public way. If we are to make the best decisions possible, we need accuracy and fairness more than politeness from our media. One’s physical and mental acuity is a valid voting factor. Is that ageism? Maybe. Is it appropriate for the people that have to choose the leaders of the free world?


If the days of the party nominations coming out of a smoke-filled back room are over—and they are—then we will have to make some very public, very uncomfortable decisions, and we will need some very public, very uncomfortable reporting to fulfill our civic duty.

Rachel feels herself to be at the mercy of media that are failing to perform their duties:

Can the population assess a candidate’s fitness to serve without honest reporting? We, the plebeian class, find ourselves caught between two forces of chaos while our journalistic class finds ever more justifications to align with one of them. Honest assessments are met with cries of some evil “-ism”, as if basic journalistic integrity is fodder for oppressors.

Our journalistic class has spent a year telling me Democracy is in peril—that if I do not come to the same conclusion as them, I am killing our republic. But I believe that the failure of our journalists to report honestly, to strive to separate their personal perspectives from their public service, is killing our democracy. A polity unable to honestly assess a candidate’s fitness because journalists fear having a scarlet A for ableism sewn to their profiles is a population incapable of carrying the weight of our democracy.

Whereas Harold would prefer a less individualistic approach to evaluating candidates:

There is a myth in America: Change, innovation, and genius flow from a single person, preferably a model of perfection. Those around them who made all of it possible share little in the success. It is a story that shapes who we perceive as being worthy to represent us. Should anyone exhibit any characteristic that is viewed as a deviation from perfection, then they are no longer qualified for the position. I find it all very disheartening.

And Timothy believes the press should avoid even raising the question of age in order to avoid ageism:

There are 90-year-olds getting college degrees and opening businesses and there are 60-year-olds rotting away in a recliner watching I Love Lucy reruns for the 96th time. Young politicians should not have their age used as a weapon to create doubt about their competency any more than an old politician should have their age used as a weapon to create doubt about their competency. Even mere mentions of a candidate’s age, presented as nothing more than fact, can impose bias in the public and should be avoided.

Other than the candidate meeting the legal minimum required age to serve in the office, there should be no mention of a candidate’s age by the press nor the opponent unless the candidate themselves makes it an issue. Just as a criminal defendant’s medical conditions can’t be pursued in court unless the defendant brings it up, age needs to be protected to start removing ageism from our conversations.

Meredith attempts to draw distinctions:

As a mother of a neurodivergent son and a volunteer who helps adults with disabilities, ableism is not a subject I take lightly. We live in a country that continues to overlook the dignity, rights, and needs of citizens with disabilities and that undervalues the lives of our seniors. To assess a particular politician, ask one simple question: Can the impairments in question be mitigated with reasonable accommodations? If so, withholding those accommodations would be wrong. However, if there is no form of support that could assist a person in performing the duties to which they were elected, questioning their suitability is appropriate. A free and fair society must have a media where their fitness to serve can be challenged, but there is a way to do so that targets the issue and not the person.

If we keep throwing ableism and ageism around to shut down criticism, we become complicit in covering up the systemic ableism that permeates our world and presents the REAL problem for those living with disabilities or returning to the workforce at an advanced age. I DO see the impact of ableism in our society, in our cities, in how we educate, work, and recreate … I don’t see it in asking our elected officials to put the needs of their constituents above their own need to be the person holding the office when age or illness impairs their ability to serve. I share the desire that our politicians be cognitively capable.

Theodore wants voters to get help from experts so that they can make more objective decisions:

Where issues of mental competence or mental health arise, I would suggest a politically neutral panel of eminent doctors specializing in neurological and psychiatric disorders, perhaps convened by the National Academy of Sciences or some similarly distinguished, apolitical, medical or scientific body, either at the initiative of the convening body or upon the request of the candidate whose fitness has been challenged. The candidate or candidates would be asked to submit to examination by the panel. The panel would be tasked with examining the candidate and issuing a public report on the candidate’s fitness for the public office he or she seeks and, if appropriate, the candidate’s prognosis over his or her prospective term. The report should be couched in nontechnical, easily understandable language capable of being understood by the general public.

Bruce agrees:

I don’t believe voters can or should have to decide on the physical and mental health of candidates for public office when plenty of experienced experts are available. As a starter, I suggest a board of five nonpartisan physicians, including a neurologist and a psychiatrist, who are permitted to fully examine candidates for the presidency and vice presidency and report their findings publicly and transparently in a manner to be determined.

But Robert warns against misleading ourselves into overestimating the objectivity of our impressions and judgments:

This obsession with the mental and physical health of politicians is part of a larger problem: misuse of medical terminology to give a patina of scientific objectivity to subjective judgments. We label someone a “narcissist” when we mean to say he’s a bit full of himself. We call someone a “sociopath” when we mean to say she’s insensitive to our feelings. We rarely, if ever, diagnose people on our side. It is always a way of saying someone on the other side is unfit. But a mental or physical illness does not define a person. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy all suffered from serious illness while in office. All three are considered among the top presidents.

I think we should mostly leave mental- and physical-health concerns out of our political judgments. We’d be more honest if we called our politicians too old, cold, or stupid instead of making armchair diagnoses of dementia, psychopathy, or intellectual disability.

Gary stopped working to spare his patients the possibility of age-diminished performance, and criticizes politicians who stick around too long, arguing that in doing so they risk great harm to millions of people.

He writes:

I am a retired surgeon.

My mother is alive at 101; my father lived to be 97. Both appear (past tense for father) alert and cogent to a casual observer. That is far, far from true. I am well: no medications, quite active, etc. My experience with peers and patients (my practice was joint replacement; Medicare age heavily represented) and general observations prompted me to retire from surgery at age 70 and completely at 71.

I greatly enjoyed my medical/surgical practice and was in no way “burned out.” With a largely Medicare population, I am far from wealthy. In order to cheer myself—or, at least, to reassure myself of this decision—I did a little research. You can see how my voting will go from what I wrote:

Old age brings physical infirmity and illness. Mental decline—especially in tasks requiring rapid analysis and fluidity of thought—is also inevitable. Although length of life has increased, there has not been an accompanying improvement in physical and mental well-being. Between 5 and 14 percent of people aged over 70 suffer some form of dementia, and this incidence nearly doubles every five years. Roughly 20 percent of those aged over 80 are mentally impaired, and by 90 years, up to 40 percent have dementia.

Loss of insight and judgment are nearly universal with dementia. These changes may be subtle; worse, a person with diminished mental acuity will never recognize their dementia. For the elderly, rapid yet complete and accurate decision making as is required in some occupations may be difficult, even impossible. Conflict then occurs between personal interests versus public safety; these are ideally resolved in favor of public safety.

Certain positions come with a mandatory retirement age: air-traffic controller, 56 years; federal law-enforcement officer, 57 years; airline pilot, 65 years; diplomat (but not ambassador!), 65 years. At least eight states require mandatory retirement for certain types of judges. Several health systems have introduced mandatory retirement or competence testing by age 75. Doctors can injure people, of course, but only one at a time, and an airline pilot might be responsible for several hundred deaths. In either event, the effect of an error is immediate and obvious. With consequences delayed and unclear, a president, legislator, or judge might repeatedly ruin the lives of tens of millions with misguided decisions and undo a lifetime of their own accumulated esteem.

Woodrow Wilson represented the U.S. at the Paris Peace Talks following World War I. During these talks, Wilson became ill. One school of thought on how harshly the Treaty of Versailles treated Germany is that Wilson failed to counter the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, who prevailed: Germany was destroyed, disorganized, and demoralized. The result in Germany included paranoia, rabidly defensive nationalism, intense racism, and division. The consequence was Hitler, World War II, and the Holocaust.

FDR was impaired when elected to his fourth term in 1944. The Yalta Conference in early 1945 determined the fate of Germany after World War II. According to some, its terms inadvertently set the way for Stalin and the Soviets to dominate Eastern Europe and precipitated the Cold War. It is believed that Roosevelt’s weakened state was partly responsible. FDR died two months later.

Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma will be 93 when his term is completed. Chuck Grassley is running for another Senate term; Senator Dianne Feinstein is leaning toward another term in 2024. If reelected, both will be 94 at the end of their term. In Congress, there are currently more than 10 members over the age of 80. The current Supreme Court’s conservative composition is in part attributable to the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG is respected as a Supreme Court justice and brilliant legal strategist. Yet, in her 80s and having survived several episodes of cancer, she lacked the insight to retire.

Just as the requisite hyperconfidence of a successful person might become dangerous hubris with years of power and influence, a decline from highly functional, wise, and insightful to mildly eccentric to overtly demented can subtly occur. Those in positions of power carry a burden to provide for clients, patients, constituents, customers. As they age, they deserve respect and, if desired and appropriate, a position where they will contribute. They also carry an obligation to potential successors, and their best action might be stepping aside, deferring to a younger, more astute and mentally agile individual who would benefit from mentorship or guidance. Consider Sir Isaac Newton’s observation: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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Stephan offers a similar conclusion from the perspective of a different profession:

I’m [Federal Aviation Administration–licensed] as a commercial pilot, and I’m now 86. I no longer fly, either recreationally (which is my choice) or for work (which is the government’s choice). The FAA mandates a fixed retirement age for working pilots, which is basically age 65, though there are minor exceptions. I have also stopped driving unless it’s absolutely necessary. My 16-years-younger wife takes the wheel of our Porsche. That is my choice as well, even though I am still quite capable of driving, after a career as an automotive journalist, including the editorship of Car and Driver, that put me behind the wheel of plenty of high-performance cars, including my own modified Porsche track car.

If we don’t want 86-year-old pilots flying our airliners, why should we accept 86-year-old politicians flying our country? There should be a government-mandated retirement age, and I’d be happy with it at age 75. How many of these people whining about ableism/ageism are also complaining that they should be allowed to fly in airplanes piloted by people Dianne Feinstein’s age?

I’m guessing none.

Margie and Don object to ageism:

As two retired business consultants who are now 83 and still going strong, we object to Americans’ reacting to anyone over 70 as somehow less able. We are very active in our retirement home, and volunteer for many other charitable endeavors here in Boulder. I do four exercise classes each week, have written letters to the local newspapers and hundreds of postcards to get out the vote, monitor the book club, attend painting sessions weekly, and host a potluck monthly for 30 to 35 residents. We also volunteer at our local library for various ESL programs. In addition, we stay in touch with our five children and 11 grandchildren, including sending boxes of homemade cookies to encourage our college students at midterms and to celebrate their birthdays. We stay informed by watching morning and nightly news, as well as the Sunday political programs and Fareed Zakaria’s take.  We are not just “napping our lives away,” that’s for sure.

My husband, a former college professor with a Ph.D., has climbed all the 14ers in the lower 48, still plays senior softball, manages the 70s team, and runs the Boulder Blues Softball Club. He works out in a gym, hikes or rides his bike at least three to four days per week. His interest in and concern for climate change has prompted him to take the lead in our efforts to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and we now compost and recycle more than 70 percent of our refuse in our building. Fortunately for us, he also volunteers to help with everything else in our senior community, including running the Great Decisions discussion group sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association each winter. Our management here has benefited from his advice and counsel on everything from staffing to the installation of electric chargers in our communal garage, used for charging our EV and two others.

We take umbrage at the idea that anyone beyond a certain age can no longer contribute to the greater good. If the American public chooses to lump all of us in one category just because of our ages, they’re sadly mistaken. We think Joe Biden is doing an excellent job and, if allowed to continue, will do so in another term beginning in 2024.

Dennis reflects that age giveth and taketh qualities of a good leader:

I have a saying: “I know that tomorrow I will be wiser than I am today, because I know that today, I am wiser than I was yesterday.” At age 77, I feel very wise and able to act on that wisdom.

Nevertheless I must admit that my strength and stamina have declined. My ability to physically act is somewhat limited compared to decades ago. Wisdom and experience are excellent traits for leaders; however, each individual is different, and voters need to be able to fully evaluate all circumstances of a candidate’s fitness. Also, do circumstances require a leader who can carry the sword in a charge in battle or have the diplomatic skills to negotiate and maintain prosperity and peace?

Hopefully, I will be able to continue being wiser tomorrow than I am today. However, I realize that at some point I may not remember what wisdom I have gained today for tomorrow––and how, when, or if this decline should occur is unpredictable. Unfortunately, age does increase the probabilities of some decline, but not when and in whom.

I fully enjoy my retirement, although I know others my age and in my profession who continue to work. I believe that most people (who are free to choose) know when it is time to retire, and we should give a candidate some credit for knowing if they are fit for the job. Still, it is the voter’s right to have as much information as possible to evaluate a candidate, and the candidate’s obligation to provide that information, and the journalist’s obligation to report on it as well.

And Errol opines:

There is something to be said for your leader having poise and exuding strength. People can call that “ableism,” and maybe it is, but we live in the real world where superficialities have value. People are going to have to learn to live with that as long as humans exist.

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Alberta deputy premier says sovereignty act not a power grab, eyes changes to bill



Alberta deputy premier says sovereignty act not a power grab, eyes changes to bill

Alberta’s deputy premier says amendments may be needed to clear up confusion over a bill that grants Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet unfettered power outside the legislature to rewrite laws and direct agencies to resist federal rules.

“We will consider amendment(s) to Bill 1 to clarify this to avoid confusion,” said Kaycee Madu in a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Madu said his reading of the bill indicates that cabinet does not have such power and all unilateral cabinet decisions would still have to go back to the legislature for approval.

“It then goes through the normal cabinet process and ultimately a bill will be tabled,” wrote Madu, who is a lawyer and Alberta’s former justice minister.

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However, the bill does not state that cabinet decisions made under the act would have to go back to the house.

Madu’s office did not return a request for comment or explanation about whether amendments are coming. Smith’s other deputy premier, Nathan Neudorf, has said he, too, believes legislative safeguards are in place but he hasn’t read the eight-page bill.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, who is helping Smith shepherd the bill through the house, told reporters he wasn’t aware of Madu’s comments. He said the United Conservative Party government is listening to reaction and concerns.

“We’re hearing the feedback on opportunities to make (the bill) more clear,” said Shandro. “No decisions have been made (on amendments).”

The bill, titled the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, was introduced Tuesday by Smith.

Smith has described it as a deliberately confrontational tool to reset the relationship with a federal government she accuses of interfering in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility from energy development to health care.

Political scientists, the Opposition NDP and constitutional experts say the bill grants sweeping powers to cabinet that are normally reserved for extreme circumstances, like natural disasters, that require swift legislative action.

Those changes, they say, make it dangerous to democracy.

Under the bill, cabinet would decide when Ottawa is interfering in Alberta jurisdiction through a law, policy or program or through a looming federal initiative it believes may cause harm.

Cabinet would send a resolution to the legislative assembly spelling out the nature of the harm and the remedies to fix it.

If the legislature gives its approval, that is where its involvement ends and cabinet takes over.

The bill grants cabinet powers to unilaterally rewrite laws without sending them back to the legislature for debate or approval. Cabinet would be allowed to direct public agencies, including police, municipalities, school boards, post-secondary institutions and health regions to flout federal laws.

The bill gives cabinet wide latitude on how to interpret the resolution it receives from the assembly. It says cabinet “should” follow the direction of the house, but doesn’t mandate it. Instead, cabinet is told to exercise its new extraordinary powers however it deems “necessary or advisable.”

Smith and other members of her front bench are in lockstep on saying the bill stipulates direct legislative oversight over cabinet’s actions.

She repeated it in the house Thursday.

Smith also accused the Opposition NDP of “fear-mongering” that “somehow this act gives power to cabinet to unilaterally alter legislation behind closed doors, despite the fact that it does not.”

NDP Leader Rachel Notley responded, “We have heard from no less than seven different legal experts, public servants and constitutional lawyers, who confirm a simple truth: this bill gives the premier the so-called Henry VIII power to write laws behind closed doors with zero input from this assembly.”

Law professor Martin Olszynski, who has written extensively on Smith’s bill since she first proposed it in the spring, said it clearly gives cabinet unfettered power to rewrite laws. He asked why, if the bill respects the existing legislative process, as Madu contends, is it needed at all?

“On its face, this is absurd,” Olszynski, with the University of Calgary, said in an interview.

Constitutional law professor Eric Adams at the University of Alberta agreed that what Madu said doesn’t square with the text of the bill.

“I can’t see anything in Section 4 (of the bill) that says the cabinet is required to table an amendment and subject it to the normal legislative process,” said Adams.

“Section 4 would seem to say the opposite.

“I’m confused by the government’s suggestions otherwise.”

Smith has delivered a mixed message on how the bill would ultimately be used.

On Tuesday, her office sent documentation to reporters saying the government hopes to use it in the spring, but that same day she told a news conference it’s a last-resort bill and she hopes to never use it.

Indigenous leaders have criticized the bill as heavy-handed and divisive. Business groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, warn that its legal uncertainty is not good for business and investment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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Stop Passing Off Politics as Evidenced-Based Medicine



As political campaigns have increasingly targeted medical practice issues, there have been a spate of articles and op-eds about the apparent corruption of medicine by politics. The American Medical Association believes it is a significant problem, because it has proposed a solution to keep politics out of medicine. Nevertheless, it seems as though doctors and other healthcare workers have been steamrolled by the political system into surrendering their autonomy and medical decision-making.

I was reminded of this grim reality when Mehmet Oz, MD, said that a woman’s right to an abortion was between herself, her doctor, and her local politicians. It’s bad enough that physicians’ political views and party affiliations affect their treatment decisions, but do we really need politicians meddling in the doctor-patient relationship?

It’s no surprise that medical professionals have been guided by their own political ideology to either combat elected officials or join them — depending on the issue. And therein lies the real problem. We have abandoned science and scientific reasoning to further our personal agendas on “the issues,” leading the medical profession into an internecine war and causing further divisiveness among physicians and the practice guidelines and standards promulgated by them.

For example, Florida has effectively banned physicians from aiding in the “transition” of transgender youth in Florida, creating considerable animus and essentially taking the matter out of the hands of practicing physicians. The Florida Board of Medicine plans to codify into law its own uniquely derived standards for the treatment of gender dysphoria.

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It doesn’t matter that Florida’s standards deviate widely from those of a half-dozen medical societies and organizations. The point is, other than providing comments to the Florida Board of Medicine, practicing physicians will have no real input into the final version of the treatment standards. Instead, those who serve on the Florida Board of Medicine will call the shots — and we can’t ignore the fact that all physicians who are board members are appointed by the governor.

Make no mistake, it is not uncommon to become ideologically blind to science when working for powerful people and even weaker sources of influence. Physicians believed pharmaceutical salespeople did not affect their choice of therapy, but studies proved them wrong.

Do No Harm, a non-profit organization, is a key proponent of Florida’s ban on gender-assisted therapy. In a letter to the Florida Board of Medicine, Stanley Goldfarb, MD, founder and chairman of Do No Harm, accuses the medical establishment of refusing “to side with science.” But whose version of science are we talking about: those in the medical profession who cite favorable outcomes following gender transition therapy, or those who point to its possible harmful and irreversible effects?

The debate reminds me of how two (or more) scientific societies can review the extant medical literature and relevant scientific studies, yet propose vastly different practice guidelines, as was the case with Lyme disease a decade ago. The Attorney General of Connecticut had to intervene to help align the discordant guidelines so that patients could be properly treated. Once again, because of our internal struggles to understand science, its limitations, and applications to medical practice, autonomy and self-determination were stripped from us.

The founder of Do No Harm was troubled by the impact of racial reckoning on medical practice, specifically, he was concerned about claims that systemic racism is responsible for disparities in health outcomes. The issues identified by Do No Harm on their website and in the news are perhaps the most vexing in medical education and practice today: affirmative action admission policies; mandatory anti-racism training; and divisive and possibly race-based discriminatory practices at universities and medical schools that violate academic freedom.

My hope is that we can discuss these (and other) topics without politicians in the exam room. I want to engage in passionate (not over-heated) discussions about social determinants of health, the injection of identity politics into medical research and education, and the validity of implicit bias and whether it contributes to microaggressions. I want to hear more from workers on both sides of the aisle who voiced reasoned opposition to what they perceived as contradictory and unjust COVID-19 policies and later faced recrimination.

I strive to be tolerant of individuals who hold opposing views rather than participate in walk-outs, threaten violence, or snub colleagues by calling them “woke” and other derogatory terms. “It just tells us how terrible our culture is becoming, that we can’t have an honest scientific debate about the things we disagree on,” remarked Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Benjamin recently made that statement after public health expert Leana Wen, MD, was forced to cancel her panel discussion at the APHA annual meeting due to credible threats against her life — and she’s not alone.

Doctors, not politicians, need to pave the way for crucial civil discourse and the resolution of controversial issues that impact healthcare and our patients’ ability to receive it — issues ranging from reproductive health to mental health to environmental health. We should reject predetermined political frameworks for interpreting evidence to explain differences in outcomes. It’s time we learned to differentiate politics from science and quash political initiatives attempting to pass as evidenced-based medical principles.

Arthur Lazarus, MD, MBA, is a member of the Physician Leadership Journal editorial board and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia.

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Jason Kenney quits Alberta politics with critical letter on state of democracy



Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney stepped down as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Lougheed late Tuesday afternoon.

“Thank you to my constituents for the honour of representing them in Parliament and the Legislature over the past 25 years,” Kenney said in a tweet also containing a statement.

The resignation came two hours after the throne speech for the Fall session was read inside the legislature, which Kenney was not present for.

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Kenney said he is proud of the work done while he was the leader but with a new government in place under Premier Danielle Smith — who replaced him as leader of the UCP in October — and a provincial election coming in May 2023, now is the best time for him to step aside as MLA.

“This decision brings to an end over 25 years of elected service to Albertans and Canadians,” he said.

“I would like to thank especially the people of south Calgary for their support over nine elections to Parliament and the legislature, beginning in 1997. Thank you as well to the countless volunteers, staff members and public servants who have supported me throughout the past two and a half decades of public service.”

Kenney said in the future he hopes to continue contributing to democratic life but chose to close his resignation letter with a scathing reflection of the state of politics.

“Whatever our flaws or imperfections, Canada and I believe Alberta are in many ways the envy of the world. This is not an accident of history.”

Kenney went on to provide the following statement:

“We are the inheritors of great institutions built around abiding principles which were generated by a particular historical context. Our Westminster parliamentary democracy, part of our constitutional monarchy, is the guardian of a unique tradition of ordered liberty and the rule of law, all of which is centred on a belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person and an obligation to promote the common good. How these principles are applied to any particular issue is a matter of prudent judgment.

“But I am concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institution and principles.

“From the far left we see efforts to cancel our history, delegitimize our historically grounded institutions and customs and divide society dangerously along identity lines. And from the far right we see a vengeful anger and toxic cynicism which often seeks to tear things down, rather than build up and improve our imperfect institutions.”

“As I close 25 years of public service, I do so with gratitude for those who built this magnificent land of opportunity through their wisdom and sacrifice. And I’m hopeful that we will move past this time of polarization to renew our common life together in this amazing land of limitless opportunity.”

Kenney announced his intention to step down as the leader of the United Conservative Party on May after he received 51.4 percent support in his leadership review vote.

Earlier Tuesday, Smith was sworn in as the new member for Brooks-Medicine Hat after winning a byelection for the seat earlier this month.

It was her first time back on the floor of the legislature chamber since the spring of 2015.

At that time, Smith was with the Progressive Conservatives, having led a mass floor-crossing of her Wildrose Party months earlier. She failed to win a nomination for the PCs in 2015 and returned to journalism as a radio talk show host for six years.

Kenney remained a backbencher UCP legislature member until his resignation. It’s not yet known when a byelection will be held in Calgary-Lougheed.

Kenney joins a long list of Alberta conservative leaders sidelined following middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 percent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 percent in their reviews but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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