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Barry Penner quitting as MLA for law firm job

The British Columbia legislature has become a little less awesome with the resignation of Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner.

"If you told me when I was an intern in 1989 that I would have been here 22 years later, having been an MLA for 15 years and a cabinet minister in three different portfolios, it's not likely that I or anyone else would have believed you," he said.

Penner stepped down from cabinet in the summer and announced he would not seek re-election. At the time he was anticipating a fall election, he said today as he announced he is resigning his seat as MLA.

"It's been a fantastic experience, but every season has a beginning and an end, and for me this is the end of my political season," he said.

Penner has taken a job as senior counsel to Vancouver law firm Davis LLP. He shared a letter from conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser saying he was clear to take the job, but should be mindful of his cabinet oath of confidentiality and the provisions of the lobbyists registration act.

"This is the right thing for my family and myself to do at this time," said Penner, who is 45 years old, married in the last few years and has a daughter under one year old. He said he may return to politics in the future, though he doesn't see himself as a career politician.

Premier Christy Clark said it was clear Penner would leave before the 2013 fixed election date. "I'm really happy for him," she said. "Barry and I started together in 1996 . . . We kind of grew up together in the legislature. He's served a long time and he's done a really tremendous service."

Penner served as Attorney General, environment minister and minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation.

He also entertained reporters with tales of his cat Ranger and Roger the marmot living outside Victoria's Empress Hotel near the legislative buildings. He was also the subject of the website Barry Penner is Awesome.

The resignation will take effect in January, 2012 and Clark will have six months to call a by-election to replace him.

Penner's resignation follows that of Iain Black who quit the Liberal government to take a job with the Vancouver Board of Trade. Clark said there may be more government MLAs quitting before the 2013 election.

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

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