Shuswap MLA George Abbott has confirmed he is following his fellow B.C. Liberal leadership contender Kevin Falcon into political retirement.
Chilliwack MLA John Les also announced Thursday that he will not run in the 2013 election, and a Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil released a statement saying has made the same decision.
Falcon, the three-term MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, resigned as finance minister Wednesday. 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.
Abbott said he expects to be dropped from cabinet as the B.C. Liberal election team is assembled, but he plans to continue to work on party policy as he serves out his fourth term as MLA. With a total of 33 years in elected office at the local and provincial level, and at age 59, Abbott said he will not be making any comebacks in the future.
Abbott served as aboriginal relations minister and is currently education minister. McNeil, elected MLA for Vancouver-False Creek in 2009, was appointed to her current ministry by Clark last year.
Les issued a statement from his constituency office, saying it was a difficult decision to leave a political career that started as a Chilliwack councillor in 1983 and four terms as a B.C. Liberal MLA. A former public safety minister, Les has most recently served as parliamentary secretary to the premier.
“I trust I have been able to represent the people of Chilliwack well and hope they will forgive any shortcomings on my part,” Les said.
Falcon, Les and McNeil have all confirmed they will serve out their current terms as MLA until the election set for May 2013.
Premier Christy Clark issued a statement praised all three retiring MLAs. Commenting on Falcon’s decision Wednesday, Clark downplayed the departures and said the vacancies offer a chance for renewal.
NDP leader Adrian Dix contrasted the departure of senior ministers and leadership candidates Abbott and Falcon with his team, where his leadership rivals Mike Farnworth and John Horgan are staying on along with former leader Carole James. Dix agreed with Abbott’s assessment that Clark is a great campaigner, but added that doesn’t change the fact that the main government initiative since the 2009 election is the rejected harmonized sales tax.
“What B.C. needs is a better government, not a better campaigner,” Dix said.
Other B.C. Liberals who have announced they are not running again include Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger, Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy, Vancouver-Fairview MLA Kash Heed, Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer and Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff.
Former cabinet ministers Barry Penner and Iain Black resigned their seats last year and have been replaced by NDP MLAs in a pair of by-elections. Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen quit the B.C. Liberal Party in March and joined the B.C. Conservatives.
NDP MLAs Dawn Black and Mike Sather have announced they are retiring next year, and Dix said there may be more.