Local News

Heart condition prompts Bell's exit

Pat Bell speaks about his heart condition and his decision to retire at his B.C. legislature office Monday. - Tom Fletcher/Black Press
Pat Bell speaks about his heart condition and his decision to retire at his B.C. legislature office Monday.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

VICTORIA – Jobs Minister Pat Bell says he will remain in Premier Christy Clark's cabinet until the May 14 provincial election, but he has withdrawn his candidacy to run for re-election due to a heart condition.

Bell has been a key cabinet minister for Premier Christy Clark, as he was previously under Gordon Campbell. He is continuing his duties as minister of jobs, tourism and skills training, a portfolio created by Clark as the centrepiece of her job strategy.

Speaking to reporters in his legislature office Monday, Bell downplayed his departure.

"Sometimes when you're in politics, you automatically think you have become smarter over a period of time," Bell said. "I think there's some evidence that points to the opposite. So renewal is not a bad thing."

Bell was nominated to run for a fourth term in Prince George-Mackenzie, the seat he has held since the B.C. Liberal landslide of 2001. He declined to identify candidates to seek the party nomination, but said he hopes to see a competition for the job.

Bell's doctor discovered an aneurysm last fall in one of the arteries connecting to his heart. The condition is typically a bulge in the blood vessel that indicates weakness of the wall. If it bursts it is fatal.

Bell said Monday his condition is being closely monitored, and he may need surgery if the aneurysm grows larger. But for now he is continuing his work and exercise schedule as usual, and he plans to campaign for the next B.C. Liberal candidate in his constituency.

He said his condition is likely inherited, and not related to the stress of his job. As forests minister he led numerous trade missions to Asia to develop markets for B.C. lumber, and has continued a similar pace in his current role.

Bell's first full cabinet post was agriculture and lands, where he led the provincial effort to establish a coastal land use agreement now known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

Bell issued a statement Sunday about his medical condition.

“Last fall I underwent a series of medical tests that were initiated to check for possible pneumonia," he said. "My very astute family doctor saw something that he wanted looked into further and as a result found a relatively rare type of aneurism that I may have had for some time. I feel very fortunate that this was picked up because this type of aneurism is rarely detected.

“At this point I am seeing a cardiac specialist and we are monitoring the size of the aneurism. If it grows I will require surgical intervention. If not, I may require just an ongoing monitoring program.

“All of this has caused me to re-think my decision to seek another term as the MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie. This is a critical and compelling time for our province and it’s equally critical that our team members are able to focus 100 per cent of their attention on the task at hand. With this diagnosis, I need to turn my mind to my personal health and this would take my attention away from my responsibilities as your MLA. For this reason I am announcing today that I have decided to withdraw my nomination as the BC Liberal candidate in the upcoming provincial election."

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