British Columbia's top law enforcement official has resigned from the provincial cabinet following revelations that his driver's licence has been suspended for excessive speeding, adding a new twist to the provincial election campaign.
Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety John van Dongen announced his cabinet resignation in a statement released Monday morning, but said he will continue to run as the B.C. Liberal Party candidate for Abbotsford South in the May 12 election.
In an interview with CBC Radio on Friday afternoon, van Dongen said the suspension had been triggered by two cases of "excessive speeding" in the last 18 months on a highway on Vancouver Island and on Highway 99.
"Over the weekend I have reflected on my actions. I have heard from those who have rightly criticized my driving record that has undermined their confidence in my role as solicitor general," van Dongen said in a statement released Monday morning.
Conduct 'reflected poorly' on credibility
"I do understand how my conduct in this respect has reflected poorly on the credibility of the office," he wrote.
"This is why I informed the premier this morning that I am resigning immediately from my duties as minister of public safety and solicitor general," he wrote.
"Over the course of the last year I have met with people who have lost family members because of speeding and other driving behaviour. I have let them down and I have let down my constituents, who depend on me to set the highest public example. For that I am deeply sorry," van Dongen wrote.
"I will continue to run in the upcoming election as a candidate for the B.C. Liberal Party in the riding of Abbotsford South and I will work hard to earn the votes and confidence of my constituents," he said in the statement.
Van Dongen said Friday he received a letter last week from the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, which was part of his cabinet portfolio, notifying him that his licence had been suspended. At that time he said he would not be appealing the suspension and had mailed in his driver's licence.
NDP leader demands explanation over delay
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Carole James said she is glad van Dongen is stepping aside as solicitor general, but was troubled by the delay.
"When you have your top cop in the province charged with offences… I don't think that is helpful to anyone," said James, who was campaigning on the streets of Vancouver's historic Chinatown on Monday morning when she heard the news.
James said Premier Gordon Campbell should "come clean on why it took so long for van Dongen's driving record to surface," and why after it did, Campbell did not immediately ask him to resign.
"It does, as I say, show the lack of judgment by Gordon Campbell, when he thinks it's just fine for John van Dongen to stay in his position," said James.
The premier announced that Rich Coleman will take over as solicitor general, a post he has held in the past. Coleman will also remain the minister of housing.