Laura Miller has parted ways with the BC Liberals after an election result that appears set to force the party from power and several months before she is scheduled to stand trial in Ontario for charges related to that province's gas-plant scandal.
Ms. Miller, who joined the BC Liberals just before the 2013 election and returned this year as campaign director, announced her departure on Twitter: "I am moving on professionally and geographically."
She leaves as the party faces almost certain defeat in the legislature.
The May 9 election left her party, which has held power for 16 years, reduced to 43 seats. The NDP and the Greens, with a combined 44 seats, have reached a deal to topple the Liberals at the first opportunity. Premier Christy Clark appointed a new postelection cabinet this week, but acknowledges that in the wake of the election, she expects to lose a vote of confidence in the House later this month.
The Premier has not acknowledged the election result as a loss and her party said in a statement that Ms. Miller's departure was always in the works: "Laura signed on to see the party through the 2017 campaign, and now is transitioning out of her role as planned," a party official said in a statement.
Ms. Miller has become a controversial figure in Ontario and B.C.
She is scheduled to go to trial this fall in Ontario on a criminal charge of breach of trust stemming from the deletion of e-mails about the Ontario Liberals' costly decision to cancel two gas plants before the 2011 election. Ms. Miller has said she plans to mount a vigorous defence and has raised nearly $80,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to pay her legal costs.
The charges prompted her to temporarily step away from her job as executive director of the BC Liberals in late 2015, but she returned last year in the lead-up to the election campaign.
Ms. Miller was at the centre of a mid-campaign gaffe this spring when the BC Liberals were forced to backtrack on her claim that a voter who tried to speak to Ms. Clark at a campaign event was an NDP plant. The citizen was brushed off by Ms. Clark after saying she wasn't voting for the Liberals, sparking a widespread social media backlash, with the hashtag #IAmLinda.
Ms. Clark has repeatedly expressed support for Ms. Miller and defended her conduct in the Ontario Liberal government, describing her as "a person of the utmost integrity."
Ms. Miller's departure comes as the Liberals prepare to recall the legislature on June 22, launching a process that is expected to lead to the defeat of the minority Liberal government.
While the Premier acknowledges the party is likely to lose, she has insisted her government must follow parliamentary conventions to the letter rather than hastening its own demise.
The Liberals initially suggested they would throw a wrench into the works by refusing to have any of their MLAs to stand as Speaker of the house – as Parliamentary convention dictates.
Because the balance of power will be so precarious, the political party that gives up a member from their voting ranks will lose a critical advantage.
The Speaker can vote to break ties in the House, but it will be challenging to pass legislation if that becomes the routine requirement.
Now, Ms. Clark says her party will ensure a Speaker is in the chair – as long as her party sits on the government benches. "So as long as we are in government, we will ensure that there's a Speaker."
On Tuesday, Green Leader Andrew Weaver challenged Ms. Clark to not only ensure a Liberal sits in the Speaker's chair, but he said that person should remain in the post even if the Liberals fall on a confidence vote.
"It is entirely not tradition to have a Speaker resign. If they do that, she is playing politics and frankly I think the electorate will punish the BC Liberals for that," he said.
"We are elected to put British Columbians first, not to put our political ambitions and careers first."
Andrew Wilkinson, a senior Liberal cabinet minister, said the problem of the Speaker is one that the NDP and the Greens should have figured out before they reached a pact to bring down his government.
"They have to have a workable arrangement that's going to work for governance of British Columbia, and it's becoming clear they haven't thought this through."