British Columbia

Finance Minister Gary Collins resigns

B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins is leaving politics immediately, to become the CEO of Vancouver-based Harmony Airlines.

B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins is leaving politics immediately, to become the CEO of Vancouver-based Harmony Airlines.

His departure comes just two months before he was scheduled to deliver a surplus budget. It is also five months before the Liberal government faces a provincial election.

But Collins and his wife are expecting their second child and he says he wants to spend more time with his family.

"My wife Wendy, who is here with me today, [and I] have spent a lot of time discussing the future and we believe the time is right to make a change."

Collins' departure leaves a hole in the Liberal cabinet. He was one of Premier Gordon Campbell's most trusted ministers and the Liberal house leader.

Campbell says he support Collins' decision.

"He has nothing but my best wishes and all of our best wishes as he goes ahead," Campbell said. "13 years in public life is a long time. It is an enormous personal commitment."

NDP leader Carole James says Collins' resignation is a huge blow for the B.C. Liberals. She notes it's the second time a high-profile minister has quit in the past few months.

"His timing, a mere five months before the general election, can only be read as a serious vote of non-confidence in [the] premier and his government."

Jerry Lampert of the B.C. Business Council says while he was surprised by the resignation, Collins has left the province in good shape.

Collins' closest colleagues say they fully understand his desire to leave politics and spend more time with his family.

Former Deputy Premier Christy Clark says she had no inkling of Collins' decision until yesterday.

"I'm surprised – but in a way not surprised because I've been through this difficult decision myself," she said.

Victoria lawyer Clark Roberts – one of Collins' closest friends – says he simply decided to put his family first.

"Politics is a tough life. It's like being a dog, for every year in politics it's like seven in real life. And the 13 years Gary put in is like 90 years in real time."

The premier moved quickly to fill the post.

Colin Hansen will take over Finance after spending the previous three-and-a-half years as Health Services minister.

Health Services is being taken over by Shirley Bond, who leaves the Ministry of Advanced Education.

Gary Collins also filled another key role: he was co-chair of the Liberal re-election campaign.

Premier Campbell hasn't decided who will fill that position but he does say others in the Liberal caucus will have to step forward to fill the shoes of the former finance minister.