Former Shuswap MLA George Abbott is no longer a member of the B.C. Liberal Party.
“This is a something I have been thinking about for a while,” he said, pointing out most people are not members of political parties and he was simply not renewing his membership.
“If I am going to be a member of a political party, I want to be excited, interested and engaged but I do not find myself being any of those things in the world of politics.”
Abbott did admit that the government’s 11th hour cancellation of his appointment as chief commissioner to the B.C. Treaty Commission was the final piece in his decision to not renew his membership.
Abbott held several senior cabinet posts during his 17 years as Shuswap MLA, including health, education and aboriginal portfolios from 2001 to 2004 and 2010 to 2011.
He retired from government in 2013 following an unsuccessful bid for leader of the party and began pursuing his PhD at the University of Victoria.
Last fall, John Rustad, aboriginal relations minister, asked Abbott to assume the role of chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission upon the retirement of Sophie Pierre on April 1.
Excited by the prospect of taking on leadership of a process he cares deeply about, and an appointment that had garnered First Nations’ support, Abbott was advised on March 18 that the government was moving in a new direction and his services were not required.
“I remain entirely puzzled as to what the new direction is that the premier was talking about in April,” he says, noting he has never been given an explanation about what that new direction is or why his appointment would have been inconsistent with that direction. “It remains troubling to me that it was done without a lot of consideration of a policy in what I consider to be an important area. There’s more to it than that.”
Academically, Abbott has a second set of comprehensive exams in October and a 200-page dissertation on the provincial government during the Gordon Campbell era to write.
An article he has written on the introduction of the harmonized sales tax in B.C. and Ontario will appear this summer in B.C. Studies, a quarterly publication dedicated to the exploration of B.C.’s cultural, economic and political life, past and present.
“I suspect I will be non-partisan for the balance of my life…” he said.
“I’m on a different track now, political science, and I do public policy work, so I actually think it’s an advantage to not have that partisan involvement.”