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Van Dongen resigns over speeding tickets, remains a candidate

B.C. Solicitor General John van Dongen has resigned following last Friday's revelation that he lost his driver's license over speeding tickets.

"I am resigning immediately from my duties as Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General," van Dongen said in a statement. He remains the B.C. Liberals candidate for Abbotsford-South.

In a statement released by the B.C. Liberal Party at 10:40 this morning, van Dongen said:

Over the weekend I have reflected on my actions. I have heard from those who have rightly criticized my driving record that has undermined their confidence in my role as Solicitor General. I do understand how my conduct in this respect has reflected poorly on the credibility of the office. In no way do I wish to allow my actions to distract from the tremendous work and ongoing contributions of the people who are working so hard to build confidence in our law enforcement system and in our efforts to improve public safety, particularly surrounding gangs and gun violence.

I have worked hard as Solicitor General. Over the course of the last year, I have met with people who have lost family members because of speeding and other illegal driving behaviour. I have let them down and I have let down my constituents who depend on me to set the highest public example. For that I am deeply sorry. ...

As I stated last week, I fully recognize the importance of public safety and compliance with the laws of our roads. I apologize to those I have let down with these latest actions, and it remains my hope that the public will continue to have confidence in the office of the Solicitor General.

Van Dongen will continue to run for re-election as a candidate in Abbotsford South. The deadline by which the B.C. Liberals could have nominated a new candidate passed last Friday.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman has been appointed to take over as solicitor general, but will also retain his responsibility for housing.

Opposition Leader Carole James criticized van Dongen's delay during a campaign stop in Vancouver' Chinatown on Monday morning.

"I’m certainly glad that he finally stepped down. It shouldn’t have taken public pressure to have that happen. He should have known to do the right thing anyway," the B.C. New Democratic Party leader told a scrum of reporters near the Chinatown gate.

"But I think there are still questions for Gordon Campbell," James added. "He seemed to think it was fine for John van Dongen to stay on. He in fact said that he was praising the work that he was doing and he didn’t seem to think that it was a problem."

Van Dongen is the second solicitor general Premier Campbell has lost to controversy in just over a year. His predecessor, John Les, stepped down last year after it was revealed he was subject to a police investigation into land deals during his tenure as Chilliwack mayor in the 1990s. The allegations involve removal of tracts of land from the Agricultural Land Commission.

Les, who says he expects to be completely cleared once the investigation is done, is seeking re-election in the Chilliwack riding.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee. Garrett Zehr and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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