01/15/2013 11:55 EST | Updated 03/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Veteran Nova Scotia New Democrat says he won't run in next provincial election

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's New Democrats will be without another experienced hand when the next provincial election is held.

Veteran backbencher Howard Epstein announced Tuesday that he will not run in the next election, which could be called later this year.

He joins Graham Steele, Michele Raymond and Bill Estabrooks as NDP caucus members who will retire from politics once the election is called.

Epstein, 63, who represents the riding of Halifax Chebucto, said he made the decision in early December and then told party officials.

The former Halifax municipal councillor won five consecutive provincial elections beginning in 1998, but was left out cabinet after the New Democrats came to power in June 2009.

He never hid his disappointment at being passed over.

"It's true, I am disappointed, but it's not why I'm not running again," Epstein said in an interview.

He said after five terms in the legislature and two terms on city council he is simply ready to "move on" from politics.

The outspoken Epstein said the move also isn't a signal that he is upset with the government's direction.

"I'm leaving because it is time for me to leave," he said. "Of course there are going to be differences and I haven't agreed 100 per cent with everything that has gone on, but I would be surprised if anyone did really."

Premier Darrell Dexter thanked Epstein for his "15 years of hard work and dedication."

"You could always count on Howard to speak up on the issues closest to his heart, whether that was the environment, community affairs or Nova Scotia's most vulnerable citizens," Dexter said in a statement.

Epstein has also been a lawyer for nearly 40 years and serves as an adjunct professor at Dalhousie University's law school.

Epstein didn't say what his future plans would be, adding that he is examining several options.