VICTORIA — A member of the British Columbia Liberal caucus is resigning her Surrey-area seat after 13 years at the legislature to become Canada’s first chief accessibility officer.    

Stephanie Cadieux, who represents Surrey South, is the first woman with a disability to serve in the legislature and in cabinet, where she held a number of portfolios including children and family development, social development and labour. 

Cadieux said leaving the B.C. legislature and her role serving the people of her riding and the province is tough but the opportunity is the right one.

“This work here at the legislature, you don’t really know what you’re getting into when you first sign up for the job and the first while is scary and new and overwhelming, but it really becomes so much a part of what you are, who you are that leaving is difficult,” she said in an interview on Monday. 

Cadieux said it was an honour to be elected and she recalled that often when sitting in the legislature she would think, “Wow, people trusted me to come here.”

A statement from Employment and Social Development Canada described Cadieux as a longtime supporter of people with disabilities.

“Stephanie Cadieux is a change leader, an advocate for diversity, accessibility, disability inclusion and an entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in planning and leadership roles,” says the federal background document.

The document says Cadieux has experience that allows her to have a deep understanding of accessibility issues faced by people with disabilities, adding she has served as a director and peer co-ordinator at the B.C. Paraplegic Association.

Cadieux, who is 49, has used a wheelchair since she suffered spinal injuries in a car accident when she was 18 years old. 

“I think this is the right time and the right thing for me,” she said. “I’ve worked most of my life in one role or the other advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and this new role really feels like it’s the right step,” she said.

Cadieux said one of her major passions and goals for her new posting is increasing the opportunities for employment for people with disabilities.

“I really hope to be a good conduit between the disability sector and government and agencies to really move the dial as it relates to inclusion for people with disabilities,” she said.

Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said Cadieux told him Monday she has accepted a new opportunity and will resign her Surrey South seat as of April 30. 

“Since her election in 2009, Stephanie has worked hard for the people of B.C., earning the trust of the voters in Surrey-Panorama, Surrey-Cloverdale, and Surrey South in four straight elections,” he said.

Falcon said she will be missed at the legislature, thanked her for her service and wished her well in the new position. .

Cadieux recently served as Opposition critic for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press