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Changing of the guard

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MLA Ted Nebbeling announces he won't run in next year's provincial election

Sea to Sky corridor mums, your babies are safe from the election kisses of at least one local politician.

MLA Ted Nebbeling has decided not to run in the next election, set for May 17, 2005.

"I basically informed my riding president about six or eight weeks ago that I was not going to run again," said Nebbeling earlier this week.

It may be one of the major reasons why Nebbeling was not returned to cabinet by Premier Gordon Campbell during his cabinet shuffle this week.

Nebbeling said he had discussed some of his thoughts with the premier last August and he felt that with the two tasks set for him by Campbell wrapped up - the Community Charter and being part of the team which won the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games - it may be time to consider stepping back from the political spotlight.

Added to this was the personal decision Nebbeling and long-time partner Jan Holmberg made to get married this past November.

He is believed to be the most senior politician to have a same-sex marriage.

Nebbeling said he and Holmberg have been discussing spending more time together and that also played a part in his decision not to run again.

"I started to talk more and more with (Holmberg) at that time (and said), 'hey wouldn't it be great if we could do some of the stuff together that we haven't been able to do because I have had to spend my time in Victoria and travelling for my job,'" said Nebbeling.

Both love to travel and have little chance to do so for most of the 19 years Nebbeling has been in either municipal or provincial politics.

Some pundits suggested that Nebbeling's removal from cabinet was a result of his same-sex marriage. He hotly denies that suggestion.

"(Campbell) didn't know that we were married at the time he had to make his decisions," said Nebbeling.

"And quite frankly I have known him now for over 20 years and I consider him a personal friend and he feels the same about us so I know 100 per cent that that would never enter his mind."

There has also been some criticism over the length of time it took for the Community Charter to be tabled in the legislature.

The first phase was introduced last March after several months of dialogue with special interest groups. It focused on allowing local government to raise revenues. Phase two should be brought in this year and is to focus on land use, growth strategies and regional districts.

The Charter was ready last January as expected said Nebbeling but many special interests groups, including business, wanted to have a good look at the draft paper.

"The Charter was ready well before the introduction but it had to have that vetting process and I thought that was very responsible because all parts of our communities and economy had a look at it," said Nebbeling.

"I felt it was really responsible to have a period where they could look at the final draft and make comments, and that took time.

"I responded to quite a number of issues where there were concerns and made some adjustments, but at the same time there were also changes that had to be made."

Nebbeling is proud of the work the government and many others did in bringing the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to Whistler and Vancouver.

"I think being part of that, as the minister responsible for the bid, was an extremely important goal for me to achieve," he said.

Now he is looking forward to perhaps getting involved as a private citizen, volunteering for the Games in the town he has called home since he came here with Holmberg in 1977.

This week's cabinet shuffle moved responsibility for the Games to the Ministry of Small Business and Economic Development. Heading up that ministry is John Les, who was first elected MLA for Chilliwack-Sumas in the 2001 provincial general election.

Before his election Les was mayor of Chilliwack for 13 years.

One of the most important skills he brings with him to this portfolio, said Les, is his strong background in spearheading public-private partnerships, likely the main building block for infrastructure development for the Games.

"While I was in municipal politics I was a major proponent of public-private partnerships," he said.

"We promoted those with some significant success in and around the Chilliwack and Fraser Valley generally and I think we developed a reputation that public-private partnerships were done and done well."

Projects included road works and the development of civic facilities such as swimming pools, ice arenas, and fire halls.

"The Olympics to me is another tremendous opportunity to be involved with the private sector in partnerships. with each bringing its strengths to the table and in so doing offering a tremendous economic opportunity for various communities around the province," said Les.

"The Olympics is not about 17 days it is about 17 years. It is an extended opportunity for B.C. to thrive economically. It is like putting the whole province on the booster pad for launching into a future we can only dream about.

"I am completely convinced that the economic benefit will be there and it will be there in spades."

Les said he has no doubt there will be challenges as the province prepares for the Games but he said putting on the best Olympics and Paralympics is a top priority for the government.

One challenge is already in the headlines: the lack of skilled labourers.

"There is no question that there is a legitimate concern that skilled workers are in short supply," said Les.

"But there is good news on that front as well (because) for the first time in six years there is a net in-migration of workers back to B.C."

While this won't solve the problem said Les it is part of the solution, along with government and private efforts to get young people to take up trades.

Generally Les said he is committed to creating an environment where business can thrive.

"I will do anything I can to promote a more healthy and welcoming business environment in the province," he said.

"There is no limit to what can be done in business generally speaking, providing government stays out of the way and doesn't impose itself in ways that lead to a lack of confidence. So I very much want to create an atmosphere where investment knows what the rules are and knows that we as government can be depended upon to not change the rules."

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