POLITICS

Longtime Kamloops Liberal MLA says he won't run in 2013 B.C. election

06/27/2012 02:23 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - The halls of British Columbia's legislature are about to get much quieter now that longtime Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger has announced he won't be running in next May's election.

Known for his booming voice, his often politically incorrect blasts and his knack for backing the rear end of his six-wheeled pickup truck onto the well-manicured legislature lawns, Krueger is calling it quits after four terms.

Krueger, who is 57 and was first elected in 1996, announced Wednesday in Kamloops that he won't be seeking re-election.

Speculation about the political futures of other long-serving Liberals now shifts to Finance Minister Kevin Falcon and Education Minister George Abbott, who have both suggested they are contemplating not running in May 2013.

Premier Christy Clark issued a statement thanking Krueger for his service to the province and his granite-like integrity.

"Everyone who knows Kevin understands how hardworking he is, and they know his compassion and his uncompromised integrity," Clark said in a statement. "He stands up for what he believes, and we’re lucky to have had his service for so long."

Krueger's blunt and often unsolicited comments regularly brought him trouble from constituents, the Opposition New Democrats and at times his own caucus. But he rarely stood down, preferring more to amplify his views than offer apologies.

The Kamloops South MLA developed a long-standing reputation as a devastating heckler in the legislature as his foghorn-like baritone voice ensured his cutting one-liners were heard as much as felt by the Opposition.

"I have to be very careful with what I say," Krueger said Wednesday. "I was surprised to find out my voice happens to have just the right timbre, pitch, whatever it is, that I don't need a microphone and everybody can hear what I say."

In recent months, Krueger used his boom-box voice to verbally lash judges, Independent MLA Vicki Huntington, former Liberal MLA John van Dongen, Opposition New Democrat House Leader John Horgan and NDP Leader Adrian Dix.

Krueger waded into debate about the government's underfunding of the justice system to complain some judges are "bad apples,'' suggesting judges who criticize the government from the bench are "dishonourable.''

"For the last while I felt I paid my dues and I should be able to speak about issues even if they are controversial," Krueger said as he justified his tangle with the judges.

He accused van Dongen, who quit the Liberal caucus to become the only sitting member of the B.C. Conservatives, of attempting to organize a Liberal caucus mutiny against former premier Gordon Campbell.

Krueger's legislature and recent hallway attacks on Dix prompted Horgan to label the Kamloops MLA as a "walking smear campaign."

Krueger said the fact that Dix recently forgot to pay for a transit ticket and once admitted to backdating a controversial memo for former NDP premier Glen Clark the integrity of the Opposition leader.

"It's a pattern, as far as I'm concerned, of dishonesty," Krueger said last month.

On Wednesday, Krueger said he doesn't set out to make people angry, but believes it's important to expose "falseness or hypocrisy."

He said he realized early in his political career as a member of the opposition that "heckling is a legitimate part of the process down here."

Krueger said his deep ties to the Liberal record, especially the failed harmonized sales tax, convinced him not to run again.

"I think it's better if I'm gone," said Krueger, who still supports the HST, which was turned down in a referendum last summer.

"I think Christy Clark deserves to run without me on the ticket," he said.

Krueger's political career will be remembered for his ability to distill controversial, complicated and often-times prickly personal issues into cringe-inducing but succinct assessments.

After a series of NDP queries about socks for welfare clients, a conflict of interest claim involving a cabinet minister's brother and another minister's fondness for snowmobiling, Krueger let loose: "Socks! Snowmobiles! Brothers! You guys are against everything!"

As an Opposition MLA in the 1990s, during questions about the NDP's venture into Pakistan power, Krueger reduced the house to slap happy delirium by chanting a query about the deal's mystery middleman in his signature full-volume style: "Who is Ali Mahmood? Who is Ali Mahmoooood? Who? Is? Ali? Mah? MOOOOOOD?"