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Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux resigns seat to become Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer

Longtime politician will leave post at end of April

Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux has announced that she will be resigning her position effective the end of the month.

Cadieux is leaving provincial politics to become Canada’s first Chief Accessibility Officer.

A member of the disability community herself, Cadieux has used a wheelchair since she was 18 – and has long been an advocate for diversity, accessibility and disability inclusion.

The longtime BC Liberal politician, first elected in 2009 in the Surrey-Panorama riding, released a statement Monday announcing her decision.

“I have been proud to serve the constituents of Surrey in Surrey-Panorama, Surrey-Cloverdale and most recently, Surrey South for the last 13 years. It is with gratitude that I reflect on what has been an immense honour, not only to serve my community as an MLA in both government and opposition, but also my Province as a member of cabinet,” she said.

“This role has been exciting, challenging, and exasperating, often at the same time, but I whole-heartedly believe in our democratic system, and in our collective ability to build a better tomorrow, step-by-step.”

Shortly after the announcement, a second release – this one from the federal government’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould – announced that Cadieux has been appointed as the first-ever Chief Accessibility Officer for a term of four years.

READ ALSO: Surrey South MLA supports action on gender pay transparency

Cadieux’s new role “will support the Government’s efforts to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, and to increase opportunities for persons with disabilities to contribute to their communities and workplaces.”

“I’m very excited about it,” Cadieux told Peace Arch News on Monday, adding that, rather than a symbolic position, the job of Chief Accessibility Officer promises a hands-on opportunity to effect change towards making Canada barrier-free.

“That is my hope,” she said. “It’s meant to ensure that government is moving forward on the objectives contained in the Accessible Canada Act.

“After the act came into force in 2019, I knew the position was outlined in the act. When the opportunity came to apply for it, I did. I’ll have more to say about the role when I take it up.”

“Stephanie Cadieux’s wealth of experience will be a tremendous asset to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion,” Gould commented.

“With her support, the Government of Canada will continue to build an inclusive and barrier-free Canada where persons with disabilities have the right to greater equity in society, and to play a greater role in the economy.”

In her statement announcing her departure from provincial politics, Cadieux noted she leaves a legacy as the first woman with a disability to serve in the Legislature and executive council.

“I am happy to leave that legacy, with high hopes that I will have inspired others to public service,” she said.

Currently, Cadieux serves as Opposition critic for Gender Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion and Sport. The MLA has also previously served as Opposition critic for ICBC and Finance and Advanced Education.

During the Liberals’ time in government, she served as Minister of Children and Family Development, Minister of Social Development, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, and Minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government.

She told PAN she will take on the new job at the beginning of May.

“I will have a month here to clear up current business and to make sure there is as smooth as possible transition for the files we are dealing with now. And then I will jump head-first into the new position.

Cadieux said that she believes she will be able to continue to work from South Surrey in her new role, but with inevitable and frequent travel.

Reflecting on her years as an MLA she said she is proud of being able to play a role in reforming and increasing disability pensions, and in moving forward a single parent employment initiative which allows single parents to transition into a return to the work force.

And while she tried repeatedly to bring forward a private members bill aimed at shining a light on gender pay inequities in the province, she is glad that the NDP government has finally proposed similar legislation.

“It’s been 13 years, four elections and three ridings,” she said. “It really does, in many ways, feel like forever, but in many other ways I can’t believe it’s been that long.

“I have mixed feelings about (leaving the Legislature). There are things about being an MLA that I will miss: relationships with colleagues, staff and people who worked with me in the community. But I believe this is the right time for me to move on.”

Cadieux said she is aware her resignation will mean a by-election for the Surrey South seat.

“I hope the premier will call that as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s an interesting time for the BC Liberal Party, with a new leader in a byelection for a seat in the house.

“I’ve no doubt some good people will step forward,” she added, while stopping well short of speculating on, or endorsing, any potential candidates.

“I leave it to the members of the various parties to pick people they would like to represent them,” she said.

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