01/24/2018 08:05 EST | Updated 01/24/2018 14:08 EST

Kellie Leitch Will Not Seek Re-Election In 2019

She said her time in politics has been a "genuine privilege."

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Kellie Leitch speaks during an interview at the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit in Toronto, May 21, 2015.

Kellie Leitch is leaving politics to "serve in other ways" and will not seek re-election in the 2019 federal election.

The former Conservative cabinet minister and leadership contender said in a statement to HuffPost Canada that her time in politics has been a "genuine privilege."

"I have concluded, however, that the time has come for me to serve in other ways, including as a surgeon and volunteer," she said, adding that she will serve the balance of her term.

Leitch said in the release that she plans to focus on her work as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and "getting children back on playgrounds." She said that public service is "core to my being and forms the very roots of who I am."

She was first elected to the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey in 2011, succeeding former Conservative MP Helena Guergis, who was dismissed from the party. Under former prime minister Stephen Harper, Leitch served as status of women minister and labour minister.

Her failed bid for Conservative Party leader included a controversial pledge to screen newcomers for so-called "anti-Canadian values" and the blasting of media "elites." After Andrew Scheer was chosen to helm the party, Leitch was shut out of his shadow cabinet.

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She told HuffPost Canada at the time she didn't have any regrets.

"There are a lot of things that I haven't been doing in my riding that I can do now, either because of the leadership or because I was a cabinet minister," she said.

"I am looking forward to a future that hopefully has another Conservative government in 2019. So it's all good."

In a short statement released Wednesday, Scheer thanked Leitch for her service to the party and her constituents.

"A celebrated paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, community volunteer and committed Conservative, Kellie has been a strong voice for her constituents in Simcoe—Grey, and a valued member of the Conservative team in and out of government," the statement read.

Scheer said Leitch was "instrumental" in developing the Children's Fitness Tax Credit, "a major legacy of our previous Conservative Government."

When asked if the Conservative leader had asked Leitch to resign or if he'd refused to sign her nomination papers if she remained the riding's Conservative candidate for the 2019 election, a spokesman for Scheer said, "Everything is in the statement."

Leitch was facing a tough nomination challenge from local candidates to carry her party's banner in the next election. Former leadership hopefuls Brad Trost and Deepak Obhrai are also facing nomination battles.

— With a file from Althia Raj