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'I'm very comfortable with my seating assignment': van Dongen

As the last session of the Legislature closed in March, then Solicitor General John van Dongen sat just three desks from Premier Gordon Campbell. That was then.

When the MLAs returned to Victoria this week, van Dongen, the member for Abbotsford South, was relegated to a seat across the aisle, at the far end of the house from speaker Bill Barisoff. His neighbours are six newly elected Liberal backbenchers and the New Democratic Party's Doug Routley.

“Every spot in the Legislature is equal and I'm very comfortable with my seating assignment,” van Dongen said. “We're all honourable members and I'm pretty pleased to be there.”

During the May election, van Dongen resigned his cabinet post but remained as a candidate after news reports revealed he'd lost his driver's license over speeding tickets.

Asked if his seating is punishment, he said, “I was involved in the decision. I'm very comfortable being there.”

The Liberals found space on the front benches for cabinet newcomers Kash Heed, Margaret MacDiarmid and Steve Thomson. Four of the 12 women the Liberals elected, Mary McNeil, Ida Chong, Mary Polak and Naomi Yamamoto, sit right behind Campbell where they will just happen to appear on camera when he, Finance Minister Colin Hansen or Attorney General Michael de Jong respond to questions in the house.

John Les, still under police investigation in a matter related to Chilliwack land deals when he was mayor of the Fraser Valley city, sits on the same side of the house as Campbell, just two seats from cabinet minister John Yap.

On the NDP side, newcomers Dawn Black, Lana Popham, Michelle Mungall and Kathy Corrigan got seats near leader Carole James, as did veterans Jenny Kwan, Bruce Ralston, Mike Farnworth and Rob Fleming.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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