NEWS

Liberal MLA calls on jobs, justice ministers to leave cabinet

03/26/2013 10:59 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT
A backbench B.C. Liberal MLA is calling for the resignation of two cabinet ministers from his own government after allegations surfaced about tampering with the bidding process for a new six-storey wood building in Prince George.

Kash Heed says Pat Bell, the minister of jobs, and Justice Minister Shirley Bond should step down from cabinet in order to ensure the public maintains confidence in its provincial government.

Heed said questions remain unanswered about the fairness of the bidding process for the new Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George.

Allegations surfaced weeks ago that Bell and Bond tried to influence a bidding process by pressuring a business development organization to guarantee a loan for the land needed to build the centre to a Liberal Party-friendly developer.

Two Prince George businessmen have also complained that Bell promised to skirt government rules and get their company shortlisted for the project.

Bell denied any wrongdoing after a winner was chosen to build the $25-million structure.

A fairness commissioner also found the bid process itself was fair. However, it should be noted that the fairness adviser's own law firm donated to the Liberal Party in the last election.

Even though the allegations remain unproven, Heed said the cabinet ministers should nevertheless step aside.

"Although it's a difficult situation that they're facing right now, it is the right thing to do and that's what I'm calling for…. Do the right thing, step aside," he said.

"Leadership needs to be shown here, leadership that shows that people will be held accountable and responsible, and when we have matters which have such a public interest and the allegations of mistrust … the leader needs to take bold decisive, accountable action."

Heed has called on Premier Christy Clark to launch a formal probe into the matter, but the premier is unconcerned.

"You know, I don't agree with him on this, obviously. Shirley Bond is running again; she has been an exceptional minister of justice," Clark said.

The NDP has also called for a full investigation of the allegations.

Neither Bell nor Bond wished to comment on the matter on Tuesday.

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