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British Columbia Colin Hansen to abandon MLA post for campaign role with B.C. Liberals

B.C.’s then-finance minister, Colin Hansen, answers questions from the media during the budget lockup in February 2011.

Diana Nethercott/The Globe and Mail

Former finance minister Colin Hansen, who Friday took responsibility for the bungled introduction of the harmonized sales tax, is switching from being an elected MLA to helping  run the B.C. Liberal re-election campaign that will grapple with the HST fallout.

After 16 years as an MLA, Mr. Hansen says he won't seek re-election in the Vancouver-Quilchena seat he won with 70 per cent of the vote in the 2009 election.

Mr. Hansen said he will be taking on the role of deputy campaign manager for the B.C. Liberals for the May 2013 election. The Liberals, who are running for a fourth term, are lagging about 20 points behind the opposition New Democrats in most polls.

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Mr. Hansen, who was in such cabinet portfolios as finance and health for 10 of his 16 years in politics but in the backbenches since Christy Clark was elected premier in 2011, told reporters during a scrum that he was leaving to "bring in new blood and new ideas" to B.C. politics.

"I still think I have a lot to contribute in public policy in the future, but I think I can do that from outside the legislature," he said, noting that he and his wife made a final decision on the matter Thursday night.

He took responsibility for the flawed rolling out of the HST for B.C. that rocked the Liberals and forced the departure of former premier Gordon Campbell. He also said the buck stops with him on public perceptions that the government was evasive on rolling out the policy. "The issues around that are things I have to take responsibility for," he said.

The 12-per-cent tax, which replaced the goods and services tax and the provincial sales tax, was defeated last year in a public referendum forced by a petition campaign.

Mr. Hansen, who trumpeted job creation, provincial credit ratings and other economic markers of the Liberal record, acknowledged the NDP is leading polls, but he hopes that voters will focus in as the election looms to judge the B.C. Liberal economic track record with that of the B.C. NDP.

He said the decision of many Liberal MLAs not to seek re-election was a "a good sign of renewal" for the party.

"If every MLA ran for re-election in every election, we'd have a legislative chamber full of very old, worn-out MLAs," he said.

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Mr. Hansen said he has not decided on any future career plans beyond next year's election.

Mr. Hansen's decision, announced in a statement Friday morning, continues an exodus of veteran government MLAs that recently forced Ms. Clark to shuffle her cabinet.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Ms. Clark said Mr. Hansen had been an "important voice" in the B.C. Liberal caucus. "We'll  miss his keen intelligence, quick wit, and tireless work ethic."

She added: "His decision not to seek re-election is not only a loss to his constituents but to the entire province."

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