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Premier to shuffle cabinet; more retirement announcements expected today

Aug 30 2012
Kevin Falcon has announced that he’s resigning as B.C.’s finance minister. 

Kevin Falcon has announced that he’s resigning as B.C.’s finance minister.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com file photo

Premier Christy Clark will shuffle her cabinet next week in the wake of Finance Minister Kevin Falcon’s decision to resign his post and not seek re-election next May.

Clark, who asked her MLAs to let her know their plans by the end of the summer, said she expects more MLAs to announce their retirements.

But she downplayed the potential impact, saying there is a lot of “bench strength” within her caucus. “This is an opportunity for renewal,” she said. “We need to go into the next election campaign with a new team.”

Government sources told The Canadian Press that Education Minister George Abbott, Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil and John Les, parliamentary secretary to the premier, will announce today they won’t seek re-election in the May provincial election. A press conference is set for 11 a.m. in Victoria.

Falcon’s resignation was viewed by many as a serious blow to Clark’s government. As one of the more conservative members of caucus, he was seen as key to helping shore up a fragile coalition party, which trails the NDP in polls and has been losing support to the upstart B.C. Conservative Party.

“It’s another sign that it’s in some real trouble,” said Jamie Lawson, a University of Victoria political scientist. Lawson said the Liberals have time to recruit candidates and put a new face on the party. “But I’m not sure I’m seeing those signals right now.”

Falcon, who lost the Liberal leadership race to Clark last year, cited personal and practical reasons for leaving politics. His wife expects to deliver their second child in February just as the government delivers its budget. “Those familiar with the role of a minister of finance know that the lead-up to a budget and its delivery in February, is a time of great stress and pressure,” he said in a statement.

Instead, he’ll be preparing with his family for a much different delivery. “I am looking forward to participating in this exciting event, unburdened by the demands of the office.”

Falcon, 49, also said he wants to return to the private sector after nearly 12 years in public life, although he has no job as yet. He will continue to sit as the MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale until the election, scheduled for May 14.

“I genuinely believe the premier requires a finance minister who will prepare a budget and make taxation and spending measures that he or she will be prepared to defend in the upcoming election campaign,” he said.

Clark named Shirley Bond to take over Falcon’s duties until next week’s cabinet shuffle. Bond already serves as attorney general and solicitor general, but was Falcon’s back-up and deputy chairwoman of the treasury board.

Falcon joins a growing list of former cabinet ministers who have announced they will not seek re-election, including Murray Coell (Saanich North and the Islands), Kevin Krueger (Kamloops-South Thompson) and Kash Heed (Vancouver-Fraserview).

Former labour minister Iain Black and former attorney general Barry Penner left last year, triggering byelections that the Liberals lost to the NDP.

Former solicitor general John van Dongen delivered another blow when he jumped to the Conservatives this year.

Allan Warnke, a political scientist at Vancouver Island University, said Falcon’s resignation raises the question: “Where is the conservative voice in that so-called cabinet coalition?” He challenged Clark’s claim of having a strong bench from which to fill cabinet posts. “There’s not too many people in there,” he said. “That’s been a problem all along.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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