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In four letters, Brian Jean, the Crossword King of Parliament Hill, has Q-U-I-T

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Brian Jean

The pay was great and the city was marginally nicer than Fort Mac, but, oh man, was the job ever boring!

Who knows, maybe Brian Jean has taken a job with a newspaper as a crossword compiler? For whatever cryptic reason, the Crossword King of Parliament Hill, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray Athabasca, announced yesterday he was pulling the plug on his decade-long legislative career.

Jean's announcement, made via Tweet and press release, didn't provide many a clues as to why the veteran Harper Conservative chose to quit just now.

"With the strongest economy in the G8, a positive decision on the Northern Gateway Pipeline and significantly improved regional infrastructure, I feel ready to step aside and allow someone new to take on the job knowing that I am passing it on in great condition," said Mr. Jean’s news release, not casting much illumination on the reasons behind the decision that will take effect next Friday. "I am truly looking forward to spending more time at home with my family in Northern Alberta."

By way of explanation, the strongest economy in the G8 may be a reference to that of Fort Mac, and not Canada. As for those of you who thought the Northern Gateway Pipeline hadn't actually been approved just yet, well, it will be soon enough.

At any rate, Jean has been MP for the northern Tory redoubt in the middle of the Athabasca Bitumen Sands for long enough that he will qualify for a nice Parliamentary pension regardless of what he decides to do next.

Less than a month ago, Jean was discovered by the blogosphere to have been whiling away the long boring days of a backbench Tory MP in Ottawa devising a crossword puzzle and mailing it out to his hapless constituents in the heart of Alberta's bitumen region, Canada's carbon capital and northern British Columbia's worst nightmare.

Jean's puzzle required readers to answer such penetrating questions as "Brian's favourite colour," and "How many grandchildren does Brian have?"

In Jean's defence, that was a considerably better way to make the news than the one hit upon by his provincial colleague, trombonist Mike Allen, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Allen, who is temporarily not a member of Premier Alison Redford's PC caucus, managed to get himself arrested for procuring the services of a prostitute who turned out to be a police officer while on a junket to, of all places, Minneapolis.

That Allen remains in office, while Jean is departing, is something of a puzzle, as it were.

Jean is the second Member of Parliament from an irrevocably safe Alberta Tory riding to commit step-aside in the past three months.

The other is Ted Menzies, from the Macleod riding in  Alberta's Deep South, who like Jean was elected to Parliament in the 2004 general election.

Menzies will not be leaving the more salubrious environs of the nation's capital, however, having taken up a role in Ottawa lobbying the federal government on behalf of genetically modified crops as the president of an industry-financed lobbying organization called CropLife Canada.

The Harper Government's move "to give crop genetics developed and paid for by farmers and the Canadian public to the agro-chemical companies who back CropLife Canada no doubt lends urgency to Mr. Menzies' new position," wrote the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance on its website.

"Mr. Menzies spent many years working for the international grain trade's favourite AstroTurf group, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers," the CWBA noted. "Elected to Parliament, the affable Mr. Menzies worked behind the scenes to successfully kill the farmer controlled single desk Canadian Wheat Board."

It will be interesting to see if similar new opportunities await Jean, who turns a still-youthful 51 next month.

Regardless, after the mildly embarrassing performance by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in the by-elections that took place on Nov. 25, the two Alberta vacancies will give his party an opportunity to go into the expected 2015 federal election with deadbolt-cinch wins in a couple of Tory heartland ridings that habitually return Conservative candidates with majorities of 70 per cent or more.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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