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Finance Minister Carole James has Parkinson's disease, says she won't run again

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James. Photograph By CHAD HIPOLITO, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Finance Minister Carole James said Thursday she has Parkinson’s disease.

She plans to carry on in her job for the time being but won’t run again.

She delivered the news backed up by about two dozen friends and colleagues in the legislature.

“Last summer, I noticed that I had developed a slight hand tremor and had a few moments when I had trouble with my balance. I attributed it to fatigue,” she said. “But when I mentioned the issues to my family doctor during a routine checkup, she ordered a referral to a neurologist.”

James saw the neurologist in late January and underwent a series of tests.

She said Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological disease, is “not a disease that anyone wants.”

“But it is not a terminal diagnosis,” she said. “Symptoms generally develop slowly, and the progress of the disease varies from person to person. There’s no cure, but there are treatments and medications to deal with the symptoms as they arrive.”

James said she believes it is important to be open about her diagnosis and what she is facing.

“Between 10,000 and13,000 people in B.C. live with Parkinson’s,” she said. “Many of those people worry about stigma and what will happen if they reach out for support. If sharing my story can help others, that’s a good thing. As the symptoms of this very visible disease do surface, there is no need to hide them.”

Her symptoms include what described as a “manageable” hand tremor.

James plans to continue as finance minister “as long as I am able to give 100 per cent,” but said she will not run for re-election.

“I have had the privilege of serving the people of Victoria-Beacon Hill since 2005, and I’ll be taking time over the next year and a half to express my gratitude to my community,” she said.

“Needless to say, this is not what I had planned for the next part of my life. But each of us could face an unexpected, life-changing experience tomorrow. I have a name for mine, and I have an understanding of what the future may bring, which is all the more reason to take full advantage of each and every day.”

James has been finance minister and deputy premier since the NDP took power in 2017, and delivered her third provincial budget last month.

She was first elected as Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA in 2005 and won three subsequent elections.

Over three terms in Opposition she was the finance critic and critic for children and family development.

In 2003, James won the leadership of the NDP and served as leader outside the house before winning a seat in 2005. She was Oppostion leader from 2005 to 2010.

She was forced out of the post due to caucus unrest after the party lost the 2009 election.