Pat Bell's departure a blow to tourism industry 

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In his long tenure in provincial government, current jobs, tourism and skills training minister Pat Bell (Prince George-Mackenzie) has earned a reputation for being a hard worker who gets things done, earning cabinet positions in forestry, mining, agriculture and more recently tourism. Although he was only in the position of tourism minister since March 2011, he made a huge impact in that time.

Barrett Fisher, the president and CEO of Tourism Whistler, said Bell will be missed."He has been a strong driver and supporter for the tourism industry, and he's been one of the best tourism ministers we've ever had," she said. "He's incredibly committed, and he's provided leadership, insight and focus to the role.

"Some of his biggest specific accomplishments, I would say, are his role in working with industry to ensure that an independent tourism organization in Destination BC was created, his role in opening up to China, his focus on the ski sector and his belief that British Columbia could be one of the top ski destinations in the world, and his desire to bring the industry together... to ensure we align our efforts and work in a more coordinated fashion.

"He has been an incredible asset and he will be sorely missed."

In February, Bell announced that he would not run again in the provincial election after medical tests for possible pneumonia last fall discovered a rare type of aneurism that could endanger his health.

"I feel very fortunate that this was picked up because this type of aneurism is rarely detected," said Bell in a statement to his constituents. "At this point I am seeing a cardiac specialist and we are monitoring the size of the aneurism. If it grows I will require surgical intervention. If not, I may require just an ongoing monitoring program.

"All of this has caused me to rethink my decision to seek another term as the MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie... with this diagnosis, I need to turn my mind to my personal health and this would take my attention away from my responsibilities as your MLA."

The loss of Bell also comes as a blow to the B.C. Liberal Party, which is trailing the NDP in the polls heading into the May 16 provincial election. Bell is popular in his riding and won the last election with over 56 per cent of the popular vote, 20 per cent more than the next candidate.

- By Andrew Mitchell


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