VANCOUVER — B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he will step down as the province’s leader after weeks of speculation about his political future following the disastrous introduction of the harmonized sales tax.
Campbell says he has asked for a leadership convention as soon as possible because too much voter anger has bogged down his government’s ability to get the job done.
“After considerable soul searching and discussion with my family, I’ve decided to ask the B.C. Liberal party executive to hold a leadership convention at the earliest possible date to elect a new leader of the party,” Campbell told reporters at a news conference outside his Vancouver cabinet offices.
He said his government has tried to move forward in recent weeks with initiatives to strengthen the B.C. economy.
“It is clear to me that those initiatives have been overshadowed and when public debate becomes focused on one person, as opposed to what’s in the best interests of the province of British Columbia, we’ve lost sight of what is important.
“When that happens, it’s time for a change,” Campbell said.
He said he made the decision in the best interests of the province, the government and his party.
“At a time like this, everyone’s attention should be focused on helping our economy rebound from the global recession and move forward with an agenda that families can see is in their long-term interests.
“It’s time for a new person to lead the province.”
Campbell faced a caucus meeting Thursday which some have characterized as an emergency gathering.
The introduction of the harmonized sales tax has been a disaster for the B.C. Liberals, and Campbell’s popularity has dropped into the single digits for the first time in three terms.
He faces a leadership review at the annual party convention in Penticton later this month and many pundits had been predicting his political demise.
Even within the disciplined Liberal party ranks, some caucus members had begun to publicly criticize the premier.
Last week Campbell announced a 15-per cent income tax cut that was panned by critics as a last-gasp effort to buy off voters disillusioned with the government.