B.C. Finance Minister Carole James has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but plans to carry on with the political duties that have made her one of the most prominent figures in the provincial government.
“I am really focused on making sure I do my job,” Ms. James, also deputy premier, said on Thursday when she disclosed that she was diagnosed in January with the progressive nervous system disorder after noticing a slight hand tremor and balance problems.
Ms. James delivered the provincial budget in February.
She told a news conference in Victoria that she will continue as Finance Minister “as long as I can do this job 100 per cent,” and at Premier John Horgan’s discretion.
She said that she plans to resume her tour of B.C. to talk about the budget next week.
“I wanted to get the news out, to share it with the public to make sure people knew what I was experiencing, but, really, it will be back to work next week.”
But Ms. James said the diagnosis will end her political career. She won’t seek another term in the Victoria-Beacon Hill riding, which she has represented since 2005, in the provincial election expected in 2021.
Asked whether she will be able to handle the stress of managing the finances of Canada’s third most populous province, Ms. James said her neurologist has told her there is no connection between stress and Parkinson’s.
“But it’s something I am certainly going to monitor,” she said.
Mr. Horgan said Ms. James is up to the challenges ahead. “Parkinson’s is a tough disease. Without diminishing the seriousness of the illness, Carole James is tougher,” the Premier said in a statement.
Still, Ms. James said she was taken aback at the situation. “It is a reminder that life can present us with the unexpected at any time,” she told the media.
“Anyone can face a life-changing, altering experience tomorrow or the next day or the next day."
Ms. James served five terms as president of the British Columbia School Trustees Association, and was a member of the Greater Victoria School Board for 11 years.
She was elected leader of the BC New Democrats in 2003, and held that post until 2010, when she was succeeded by Adrian Dix.
When Mr. Horgan sought to succeed Mr. Dix in 2014, Ms. James offered her public support, citing his team-building skills.
Ms. James was treated for uterine cancer in 2006.
Adam Olsen, the Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, called Ms. James’s news a shock to B.C. politics.
“It’s an announcement today that shocked everybody in this building,” Mr. Olsen, the party’s interim leader, said in an interview, referring to the B.C. Legislature.
Speaking for the opposition BC Liberals, MLA Mary Polak said she was not surprised Ms. James would forge ahead with her political duties.
“That is quintessential Carole, that she would intend to fulfill the obligations she has taken on,” Ms. Polak said in an interview.
"I am sure she will do that with every ounce of her being, and I am sure she will also pay attention to her health and if it seems like that’s not working, she will notify the Premier and take appropriate action.
“I am glad to hear she is going to try and stick it out.”
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