Pat Bell, a key minister in the B.C. Liberal government, announced Sunday he will not run in the coming provincial election due to health issues.
Mr. Bell, a close ally of Premier Christy Clark, with a vital portfolio that includes responsibility for job creation in the province, disclosed that last fall doctors had discovered he had a rare aneurysm.
“All of this has caused me to re-think my decision to seek another term as the MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Bell is just the latest in a string of high-profile Liberals who have stepped down or announced they will not seek re-election. Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals are trailing the rival NDP in the polls.
Mr. Bell has been under fire in recent months. In November, The Globe and Mail revealed he had forwarded an e-mail chain containing sensitive internal government discussions to the vice-president of the B.C. Liberal Party. The e-mails discussed Chinese businessman Ni Ritao, who had purchased a shuttered pulp mill in Prince Rupert. Mr. Bell forwarded the e-mails to Bill Belsey, a party insider who also works for Mr. Ni.
The Globe and Mail recently reported that Mr. Ni is now in custody in China and is being investigated for an alleged loan-fraud scheme linked to the mill. Mr. Belsey is being investigated by the Officer of the Registrar of Lobbyists for allegedly failing to register as a lobbyist.
Mr. Bell also helped facilitate the controversial federal decision to allow a Chinese mining company to import more than 100 temporary workers from China to work at a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge in northern B.C. In 2011, the Premier announced the Chinese company, Canadian Dehua International, along with other partners, had signed deals to invest $1.36-billion in various mining projects that would create more than 6,700 jobs in the province.
However, Canadian unions challenged Dehua’s plan to import Chinese workers to staff the mines, claiming the company’s assertion that it could not find Canadians to fill the jobs was false. The controversy has prompted the federal government to review the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Mr. Bell was forced to backtrack on his initial support for the company and its plans.
Mr. Bell could not be reached on Sunday to comment on whether the e-mails he sent to Mr. Belsey or the temporary workers issue factored into his decision to not seek re-election.
The Liberal MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie was first elected to the legislature in 2001.
Ms. Clark said in a statement Sunday that, “Pat’s energy … is felt throughout the province. By his leadership, British Columbia has expanded into new markets creating new jobs – especially in resource communities. And that’s why I am pleased that he will continue in cabinet until the election, bringing his passion to securing our future.”
She went on to say the “he has delivered new services and infrastructure so Prince George is a better place to live.”
Editor’s note: A version of this article published in print on Monday and online incorrectly described him as the minister responsible for a decision to allow a Chinese mining company to import temporary workers from China to work in northern B.C. In fact, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a federal program. Provincial governments are responsible for foreign workers once they arrive in Canada. This version has been corrected.