OTTAWA – Long-time Conservative MP Gerry Ritz is leaving federal politics, and has no plans to run politically in the future, snuffing out any speculation that his Commons departure was to make way for a run at leader of the Saskatchewan Party.

In a statement posted to his Twitter account Thursday morning, Ritz said he is not returning to his seat in the House of Commons this fall, and in an interview with CTV News he said after more than twenty years of public life, he has no plans to run for political office again.

“I think I’m done,” said Ritz, who has been the MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask., for 20 years and spent some time before that as a political staffer.  

Despite a hard “no” when asked if he wasgoing after outgoing Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s job, Ritz says he’s still looking at “other opportunities” that could arise.

While Ritz said he hasn’t set anything up to fall back on, he plans to stay politically connected behind the scenes, and tuned in to Canada’s ongoing trade negotiations.

CTV News first reported Wednesday night that Ritz was set to resign and overnight political observers speculated whether he was positioning himself to run for the leadership of the Saskatchewan Party. Premier Brad Wall announced earlier this month that he is stepping away from politics after 10 years as premier.

There are now five people running to replace him as leader of the Saskatchewan Party. The candidate nomination filing deadline is Nov. 24.

Resignation in the works for months

First elected as Reform Party MP in 1997, Ritz became minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in 2007 under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, and held that cabinet post until the Liberals formed government in 2015.

During his time in cabinet Ritz was tasked with revamping the Canadian Wheat Board. His work on this was a career highlight, he said.

Although, he acknowledges that his tenure wasn’t without political missteps.

“The things I shouldn’t have said. That’s a pretty long list depending on who you talk to,” said Ritz.

Amid a listeriosis outbreak that killed 22 people in 2008, Ritz came under fire for remarking that the political blowback over the matter was "like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."

This Parliament he was also criticized for remarking that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was at the time trade minister, required “adult supervision” when it came to the Canada-EU trade talks.

But, Ritz, who has been openly critical about how the current Liberal government’s handling of the trade file, doesn’t regret saying it. “You wear it like a cape and move on,” he said. 

Since the Conservatives have been in opposition, Ritz had been international trade critic, a position Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer gave to Ontario MP Dean Allison when he unveiled his critic roster Wednesday.

This had nothing to do with his decision to step down, Ritz says. He told CTV News that he and his wife Judy began planning his departure near the end of the spring sitting of Parliament, and when Scheer approached him a few weeks ago about what critic portfolio he’d be interested in, he thought it was a good time to let the “new players” in the caucus have a chance to move forward.

“And I said, ‘you know Andrew, it might be the time for me to pick none of the above’ and step aside,” said Ritz, who says he’s supportive of the direction Scheer is taking the party.

 “Politics again is an ebb and a flow. You have to bring people in to the tent… it’s all about the size and scope of what you’re doing, what you’re moving forward on but you have to be honest and it has to be truthful. You actually have to be talking about what you’re going to do as government,” Ritz said.

Wants more time with family, community

As for what’s next, Ritz said he looks forward to spending more time at home with his family. He has a grandson who is celebrating his tenth birthday on Sunday and Ritz said that he’s looking forward to being there.

“My wife has a honey-do list that will probably take three years if I really hurry,” he said.

While he won’t be taking his seat in the Commons again, the exact date his seat will be vacant, prompting a byelection, is still up in the air.

He’s not sure yet who is interested in running to succeed him, but Ritz said he’ll be around and open to helping future campaigns in a non-official way to ensure the riding stays Conservative.

In his statement, Ritz thanked his constituents for their two decades of support, and thanked his House and Senate colleagues, as well as the staff and public servants he worked with over the years.