Social Development Minister Don McRae has resigned from cabinet, citing a family health concern.
McRae, a two-term Liberal MLA from the Comox Valley, said the stress of a family member’s emerging health situation led him to ask Premier Christy Clark if he could be removed from her cabinet.
“Professionally, you always try to do all the balance in life to make sure you’re good at your job and your family isn’t asked to sacrifice too much,” McRae said in an interview.
“For a long time, things were working really well. But some new scenarios have come up in the last several months that have caused extra stress.
“So, I asked her if I could be excused from cabinet for a period of time. And whether I go back or not is obviously totally up to her. Whether I want to go back, down the road, is also a conversation I’d have to have with myself and family at the time. At this stage I’m stepping out of cabinet.”
McRae, 45, and his wife Deanne have two young daughters, Gracie and Chloe. The health concern is not related to them, McRae said, but involves another family member. “I want to be there to better support that individual,” he said.
Clark will promote Michelle Stilwell, a rookie MLA and former Paralympic gold medalist, to take over as minister of social development and social innovation.
Most recently, Stilwell, the MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, was Liberal caucus chairwoman and parliamentary secretary to the minister of health.
“It’s a privilege to be asked by the premier to fill the role that Minister McRae did such a great job on, and it’s an honour for me to step into cabinet,” Stilwell said.
Stilwell was considered one of Clark’s star candidates in the last election, and was seen to be on track to an eventual seat at the cabinet table. Geographic considerations may have also played a role in her promotion.
McRae was Vancouver Island’s lone voice at the cabinet table and Stilwell is the only other Liberal MLA from the Island.
“Being the minister for the Island ensures there is a voice for the Island in cabinet,” Stilwell said.
McRae will retain his Comox Valley seat and continue to sit as an MLA, he said. “I’m intending to run again,” he said. “This is all part of it. If you make that choice of burning yourself out, and making your family really resentful, then you know you’ve crossed that line and the conversation is different.”
McRae was first elected in 2009, but sat on the government backbench until Clark won the Liberal leadership in 2011 and tapped him to serve as her agriculture minister.
He is a former high school teacher and City of Courtenay councillor.
McRae was named education minister in 2012 and charged with approaching the B.C. Teachers’ Federation with a government proposal for a new 10-year collective agreement. Angry teachers rejected the idea.
McRae moved to the Social Development Ministry after the Liberals won re-election in 2013.
Clark has faced speculation she would shuffle her cabinet, as she reaches the mid-point of her four-year term in office this spring.