Mauril Bélanger, Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ottawa-Vanier region, which the University of Ottawa is located, has been diagnosed  with the incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Bélanger told the Citizen he plans to continue to serve as an MP.

Lou Gehrig’s disease causes a person to lose control of their muscles, and the average life expectancy after being diagnosed is three to five years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences, saying “My thoughts are with my friend @Mauril_Belanger today. Stay strong. We will always have your back, Mauril.”

While Bélanger will continue to serve as MP, he has withdrawn his candidacy for the role of Speaker of the House of Commons, a role that functions to maintain order in parliament and defend the rights and privileges of MPs.

According to the Citizen Bélanger has suffered from from a weakened voice in recent months, which caused him to consider withdrawing from the race for Speaker. It also forced him to avoid speaking in a number of situations, such as having to limit his speaking to colleagues or refusing interview requests.

In a letter to Liberal caucus members, Bélanger wrote: “I wish to thank everyone who has encouraged me and supported my candidacy for Speaker. I will be eternally grateful. Thank you to my election team and the voters of Ottawa–Vanier for the privilege of serving them,”

Bélanger has been MP of the Ottawa-Vanier riding for 20 consecutive years, and was re-elected this year with 58 per cent of the vote.

In this year’s election, Bélanger’s stated plans to improve Ottawa-Vanier were to reduce the burdens of student debt and high tuition fees, as well as improve infrastructure. Bélanger is also a U of O graduate, and served as president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.