BC Education Minister George Abbott
Credits: CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY
Education Minister George Abbott, who lost to Clark in the Liberal leadership race last year, is the most prominent departure. Children and Family Minister Mary McNeil and Parliamentary Secretary John Les also announced their pending retirements.
"I really want to move on to a greater focus on public policy and a lesser focus on politics," Abbott told Global BC News.
The 17-year B.C. legislature veteran insisted his decision was not motivated by his party's faltering poll numbers or by any displeasure with his boss.
"I have full confidence in the premier," Abbott said. "She's got a big job ahead of her, without a doubt, in turning around the fortunes of the BC Liberal government, but I've got great confidence in her doing that."
University of Victoria Prof. Emeritus Norman Ruff, however, said Clark's image is taking a beating because so many resignations have happened before she announces a new cabinet.
"She's lost control of the agenda because all the news stories are of the defections, which have made the government appear to be a house of cards," he said. "Whether it's all going to collapse remains to be seen."
The resignations of Abbott, as well as Finance Minister Kevin Falcon on Wednesday, are big losses to a cabinet that has few recognizable faces on the backbench to fill in, Ruff said, adding McNeil's departure is also significant since the one-term MLA had "started off well in a difficult portfolio."
With a "fairly weak" lineup, Ruff suggested Clark could have to resort to appointing a few prominent, but unelected, citizens to her new cabinet, just as former NDP premier Ujjal Donsanjh did in 2000. Clark, however, rejected that possibility at a press conference Wednesday.
Clark may also look to promote former cabinet ministers Moira Stilwell and Bill Bennett, Ruff said, as well as elevating Burnaby North MLA Richard Lee.