Premier Christy Clark is planning a pre-election cabinet shuffle as early as next week to replace Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon and other ministers who are likely to leave.
Falcon announced Wednesday he has stepped down as finance minister and won’t run in the 2013 election, because his wife is expecting a second child, at around the same time as the next B.C. budget is due.
“Putting aside the timing associated with the newest addition to our family in February, 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.”
Clark appointed Attorney General Shirley Bond as acting finance minister, but said it is a short-term arrangement and a new cabinet lineup will be announced “in the coming days” to prepare for the May 2013 election.
The second-place finisher in the 2011 B.C. Liberal Party leadership race, Falcon was appointed finance minister and deputy premier by Clark. He has overseen the windup of the harmonized sales tax, which battered the government’s popularity and pushed Gordon Campbell out of the premier’s office.
Falcon’s current budget projects that the province will balance the books again after a string of deficits that was extended to this year by the repayment of a $1.6 billion transition fund from Ottawa for adopting the HST. After being rejected in a province-wide referendum, the tax comes to an end next spring, just as the province is preparing for a scheduled election in May of 2013.
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston questioned whether Falcon’s promised balanced budget can be delivered. Natural gas revenues have fallen with the price of gas this year, and Falcon’s planned sale of government assets may not come in time to generate the needed cash, Ralston said.
Education Minister George Abbott, another leadership contender, said Tuesday he will soon make announcement about his political future as well. Energy Minister Rich Coleman’s future has also been the subject of speculation.
In his resignation statement, Falcon praised Clark as a “great campaigner and communicator.” He wouldn’t rule out a return to politics at some point.
Falcon was first elected MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale in the B.C. Liberal sweep of 2001. His first cabinet post was minister of state for deregulation, and he served as minister of health and transportation before moving to finance in March 2011.