Finance minister Kevin Falcon announces resignation
Published Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:56AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 29, 2012 8:08PM PDT
Kevin Falcon announced Wednesday he is stepping down as B.C’s finance minister immediately, but will remain as MLA of Surrey-Cloverdale.
In the wake of Falcon’s resignation Premier Christy Clark has appointed Justice Minister Shirley Bond as acting finance minister.
Falcon said he will not run for re-election and has been signaling since last spring he was reconsidering his political future for personal reasons.
Falcon and his wife are expecting a child in February and he wishes to spend time with his family without the stress and pressure of delivering the provincial budget in the same month, he said.
“After almost 12 years in public life, I wish to return to the private sector in a yet to be determined role. I feel enormously blessed and privileged to have served the constituents of Surrey-Cloverdale for almost 12 years,” Falcon said in a statement.
He said he told Clark of his decision Wednesday morning, saying he wanted to ensure she had time to choose a successor as the party heads toward a difficult May 2013 election.
"I think its very important for the premier to have a minister of finance who, throughout the fall, is putting together an administrative agenda... that they are prepared to fight for during an election."
Falcon was a key member of Clark's government and the coalition that she must maintain to have a hope of winning the next election.
The Liberals have faltered in the polls for months, falling behind longtime rivals in the NDP, as some right-of-centre voters moved their support to the fledgling BC Conservative Party.
Falcon, who placed second to Clark in last year's leadership campaign, comes from the side of the party that leans Conservative federally, while Clark has always been federally aligned with the Liberals.
After the leadership vote in February 2011, Clark appointed Falcon finance minister, giving the Surrey-area politician the daunting task of trying to sell the criticized harmonized sales tax to British Columbians.
Voters dumped the tax in a provincewide referendum and Falcon was dutifully overseeing the dismantling of the HST and guiding the return to the previous provincial sales tax, which he often referred to as a "stupid tax."
Falcon was first elected in 2001 and then re-elected in 2005 and 2009. He previously served as the minister of health and minister of transportation.
Prior to Clark's return to B.C. politics after her stint in private life as a radio host, it was perceived that Falcon was being groomed as Campbell's replacement.
As transportation minister he managed major projects, including the new William Bennett Bridge across Okanagan Lake in Kelowna.
Campbell then promoted him to the often difficult health ministry where Falcon introduced controversial changes to residential care and new information technologies.
During the leadership campaign, Falcon courted the business community and often touted tax cuts as the way towards a flourishing B.C. economy.
"That has always been the lesson of tax cuts: we end up generating more revenues back to government," Falcon said last year. "I've always been a believer in that and I think the numbers bear that out very, very clearly."
Falcon also gained a reputation as a fierce debater in the legislature, always willing to take on the New Democrats in verbal jousts over free enterprise versus social engineering.
His resignation comes after several other Liberal MLAs announced they won’t run for re-election in recent months, including Bill Barisoff, Dave Hayer, Murray Coell, Kash Heed, Kevin Krueger and Harry Bloy.
B.C.’s minister of education George Abbott recently told CTV News he has not made a decision about his plans to run in the next provincial election.
"I have not made a final decision on that but I will not be keeping you in suspense for long," said Abbott. "I'm hoping to announce a decision in that regard in the immediate days ahead."
With files from the Canadian Press