© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan
P.E.I.’s former finance minister Wes Sheridan quietly resigned his seat as an MLA Monday – the same day he was replaced in cabinet by Premier Wade MacLauchlan.
Sheridan says it was a day of mixed emotions as he sat on the sidelines Monday watching seven of his former cabinet colleagues reappointed to executive council.
“I still have lots of interest in that. It’s weird sitting back and watching them get sworn in after being with them for a couple (of ceremonies),” Sheridan said.
MacLauchlan has taken over responsibility for finance and appointed a reduced cabinet of just seven ministers – the smallest amount permissible under the law.
Sheridan had previously announced he would not run in the upcoming provincial election, but indicated he was willing to stay on as finance minister.
Sheridan admits he will miss running P.E.I.’s finances, but he says his omission from cabinet is not the reason he has abruptly resigned his seat.
“I said I would stay and do whatever the premier would like me to do, and as the discussions went, this is perfect,” Sheridan said.
He intends to focus his time on his wife, Sandra, who is battling a degenerative autoimmune disease. His wife’s health was the reason he gave for not reoffering.
He also says he intends to work on the party’s campaign to get a Liberal elected to replace him in his riding of District 20, Kensington-Malpeque.
“I need to be a free agent to help in this next election, I don’t want to be on the taxpayers’ dime to do that, so by stepping down I’m not a sitting MLA leading up to the next election. That allows me to make sure I get a great Liberal into the District 20 chair.”
Sheridan refuted any notion he was pushed out or asked to step down by MacLauchlan. He supports MacLauchlan’s decision to take on responsibility for finance, as he believes it will help to give the new premier insight into government’s inner workings.
“I’m tickled with everything he has done to this point, I think he made a great statement with a small cabinet, it speaks volumes of his vision and how he wants to proceed – very prudently.”
The timing of Sheridan’s resignation does impact the value of his severance package.
MLAs in P.E.I. are entitled to one month of pay for every year they have been elected. This is calculated based on the salary the MLA has at the time they leave office or an election is called.
Had he waited until the writ was dropped, Sheridan’s severance would have been calculated based on a backbencher’s salary, which means he would have received about $45,000 in severance.
But since he resigned while still receiving his cabinet minister’s salary, Sheridan will receive the capped maximum severance of $67,906.
He says the additional severance did not play into the timing of his resignation.
“It’s offset completely by salary almost. If I stay on as an MLA and pull my salary right through to the election, it’s a wash.”
The difference between the two would depend on when the election is held. If it is held at the end of April, he would make about $11,000 in salary.
Sheridan says the severance pay is there in part to help cabinet ministers during the six months they must wait before taking a job with any business or firm that accepted or benefitted from a contract with the department for which they were responsible.
“The change in dollars in my pocket is really minimal,” Sheridan said.
“This way I’m a free agent through all that time period.”