December 17, 2015 7:42 pm
Updated: December 17, 2015 11:42 pm

What it means for the BC Liberal party following Laura Miller’s departure

WATCH: A top executive with British Columbia's Liberal party, Laura Miller, has resigned after she was hit with criminal charges in Ontario. Keith Baldrey reports.

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She’s far from being a household name in B.C. , and even the fact she’s now facing three criminal charges in Ontario will not elevate Laura Miller to being part of many water cooler conversations.

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But make no mistake: Miller has been a vitally important player for the B.C. Liberal party the past few years, and now what could be a prolonged absence for her from running the party (she has resigned as executive director) could spell bad news indeed for it.

Miller is facing charges arising from whatever alleged role she may have played in the Ontario gas plants scandal. Essentially, she is accused of wrongly destroying records (in this case, government e-mails) when she was deputy chief of staff to former Ontario premier Dalton McGinty.

Aside from the ironic — to say the least — fact that deleted emails are at the heart of this case, the scandal doesn’t have anything directly to do with B.C. or the provincial government here.

However, Miller’s role as executive director of the B.C. Liberal party made her a major (if somewhat anonymous) player on the B.C. political scene. She has also been a key ally of Premier Christy Clark, whose former campaign manager Mike MacDonald helped recruit her to leave Ontario and tackle the assignment of rebuilding the party’s organization and infrastructure.

The party’s internal organization had eroded during Gordon Campbell’s time as premier and B.C. Liberal leader. He was never particularly interested in the inner workings of the party, preferring to concentrate almost all his energy towards various public policies.

As a result, things like candidate recruitment, regional organizing, and building an electoral machine were allowed to slide. Miller’s job was to reverse that trend, and proof of her success was the unexpected election win in 2013.

The premier is expected to call by-elections in two ridings some time soon. One of them (Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant, Jenny Kwan’s former seat) is a virtual lock for the NDP, but the other — Coquitlam-Burke Mountain — should be a safe B.C. Liberal seat. But by-elections can be difficult for a government to win, even in presumably safe seats, so Miller’s absence may make an already tough task that much tougher.

There is still a chance Miller could return to the party before the next election in May, 2017. She could be acquitted, or the charges dropped or dismissed, which would pave the way for her re-entry into B.C. politics.

But there is also a good chance she must remain on the political sidelines for a prolonged period, thus robbing the governing party one of its chief weapons at the most critical time. She may indeed not be a household name around B.C., but she certainly is within the inner circle of the B.C. Liberals.

READ MORE: Who are the two former McGuinty aides charged in Ontario gas plants scandal?

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