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Loyola Sullivan is resigning as Newfoundland and Labrador's finance minister, he announced Friday. ((CBC))

The second most powerful man in the Newfoundland and Labrador governmentsurprised political watchers Friday with an unexpected resignation.

Loyola Sullivan announced that he isstepping downasa member of the house of assembly and asfinance minister, the second minister in Premier Danny Williams's government to leave office this year.

Sullivan, a 14-year MHA, said he decided over the holidays to bring an end to his career well before the general electionon Oct. 9.

"I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to run again," Sullivan told CBC News, adding he then decided to leave immediately so the remaining cabinet can shape the pre-election budget, expected to be brought down in March.

"To go through a budget, to bring down a budget… going into [an] election, and then not run and walk away— I wasn't comfortable with that," he said.

Sullivan, a former leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, has represented the Avalon Peninsula district of Ferryland since 1992.

He also is resigning as president of Treasury Board and as government house leader.

Sullivan took on the extra duties of government house leader following Ed Byrne's resignation from cabinet in June.

Byrne was forced to step downas natural resources ministerafter he was named intheauditor general's investigation of excessive payments of constituency allowances.

Sullivan has been a key member of the Williams government since the Conservatives took power in 2003.

He helped renegotiate the new Atlantic Accord on offshore oil revenues with the federal government and has been firm on reducing the provincial debt.

In a statement, Williams paid tribute toSullivan as diligent and hard-working.

Opportunity for renewal

"There is no doubt that Loyola stands shoulder to shoulder with our province’s most admired and respected political figures," Williams said.

Williams also said that the departure of Byrne, and now Sullivan, is "an opportunity for renewal for this party."

"These are two very senior people who've made a tremendous contribution to public service and they've decided to move on, and there will be a day when I'll move on," said Williams. "So from that perspective. it's a chance for new people to come in, new blood, new infusion."

Williams announced that Tom Marshall will be leaving the justice portfolio to take over as finance minister.

He also said that Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Tom Rideout will also serve as acting justice minister and attorney general.

'Hard shoes to fill'

Don Drew, president of the Ferryland district association, said it's going to be difficult toreplace Sullivan.

"[They're] gonna be hard shoes to fill," said Drew. "I mean, the time he's put into the district, I'm gonna say is second to none of any member in this province or any member who's ever been there."

Sullivan said he has no immediate plans, but will be entertaining recent offers from the private sector.

"I'll probably go back to some of those options presented and see if they're active, if they're still interested. I do have a feeling they are, because some have only been made recently," Sullivan said at a news conference.

Sullivan didn't rule out going into federal politics, but he said it's not something he's currentlycontemplating.