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Resignations no surprise to local Maple Ridge MLAs

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon resigned Wednesday. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon resigned Wednesday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The resignation of four Liberal MLAs in two days didn’t surprise either local MLA.

Kevin Falcon stepped down first on Wednesday, followed by John Les, George Abbott and Mary MacNeil on Thursday.

Premier Christy Clark said all MLAs have been asked to declare their intentions by the end of the summer, and she will unveil a cabinet shuffle next week.

“It’s been brewing for a while,”  said Liberal Marc Dalton,  Maple Ridge-Mission.

“It’s been expected.”

Dalton said Falcon’s reasons for leaving because of family, are valid. Falcon has a young child and his wife is expecting another. Combine those duties with the travel and political demands of being finance minister and Dalton said he understood why Falcon said goodbye.

“I don’t really recommend the job for people with young children,”  Dalton said.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to put stress on the family. I think it’s a very valid reason.”

Falcon lost to Clark in the 2011 Liberal leadership contest, even though he had the support of 19 Liberal MLAs and Clark had only one.

Dalton backed Falcon in that contest, then shifted his support to Clark after her victory.

But he didn’t see Falcon’s departure as a slight to Clark nor did he think it would hurt the Liberals going into next spring’s provincial election. Generally, every election, you get about a dozen MLAs not seeking re-election, he added.

Falcon is a strong candidate, but “there’s a deep bench” among the Liberals, he added.

“There are a lot of quality MLAs that will be running.”

Falcon’s departure was followed by three more on Thursday.

Abbott, the education minister, confirmed he is following his fellow B.C. Liberal leadership contender Falcon into political retirement and not running in the next election.

Les, Chilliwack MLA, also announced Thursday he will not run in the 2013 election, and McNeil, the Children and Family Development minister, made the same decision.

“I think we could say these people are very accustomed to power. They don’t want to waste their time in opposition in a two-party system,” said NDP candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Elizabeth Rosenau.

“They can pretty much read the writing on the wall.”

Rosenau said it’s been a tough few years for Clark, who came into the leadership as an outsider when there already was a lot of strife and division within the party.

Not taking a clear position on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the Harmonized Goods and Sales Tax probably hurt her popularity, said Rosenau.

“This woman is not a leader, she’s a cheerleader.”

Rosenau added the Liberals could be delaying their nomination meeting that could see Pitt Meadows resident Terry Becker be named Liberal candidate in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows because it’s not certain she’s a strong enough candidate. Becker so far is the only one who’s said she wants to seek the nomination.

Becker said she’s not sure when a candidate selection meeting will take place and hasn’t heard anything.  “I can’t speak for the party.”

NDP MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Michael Sather also expected Falcon’s departure.

“It’s not a surprise.”

Both Falcon and Abbott have been foreshadowing their departures for awhile.

Sather also expected Abbott, who also ran for the Liberal leadership, to make an announcement.

Falcon’s departure follows the earlier departure of cabinet ministers Barry Penner, and John van Dongen, to name just a few.

Sather acknowledged Falcon has a young family, but speculated there could be more to it than that.

“My guess he’s not too fond of [Premier Christy Clark] Christy’s style.” Falcon was more comfortable with former premier Gordon Campbell’s style, he added.

Sather also retires as MLA once next May’s election is called. He’s not sure what he’ll do when he’s no longer a politician.

He added everybody thinks it’s likely the NDP will win the election after being out of power for more than a decade.

“But who knows. Christy might be able to pull something out of the hat yet.”

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins said in a release that both the government and the B.C. Liberal party are in “turmoil “ and that the Liberals are in “on-going decline.”

“It is evident that both the government and the governing party are in turmoil. In part that is because of internal dissension, but, more importantly, it is because British Columbians desire a fundamental change in how our province is governed, and a change in the government.”

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