Ron Russell announced today, July 6, that health issues will force him to temporarily step aside as minister of Transportation and Public Works. “I have been diagnosed with cancer of the bowel. I will be undergoing further tests and then surgery in the near future,” said Mr. Russell. “These developments will preclude me from active duty in cabinet. This is a very busy time in the Department of Transportation and Public Works and, obviously, those responsibilities require a minister’s full attention. My attention will be diverted for the next while.” Mr. Russell said that he will continue to hold the positions of deputy premier and government House leader. “I am optimistic that I will be able to return to full capacity before too long. My spirits are good and I have a great deal of support from my colleagues, friends and family,” he added. “Ron has earned the respect and support of Nova Scotians of all political stripes,” said Premier John Hamm. “His stellar service and loyalty to his province are an example to all of us. On behalf of all Nova Scotians, we wish him a successful treatment and a speedy recovery.” The premier announced that Michael Baker will serve as the acting Minister of Transportation and Public Works, in addition to his existing responsibilities, during Mr. Russell’s absence. Mr. Russell also confirmed today that he will not be re-offering in the next provincial election. He has been the MLA for Hants West since 1978. “I have enjoyed many wonderful experiences over the past 27 years,” said Mr. Russell. “I’ve worked alongside so many terrific people and I will look back over my career with a great deal of fondness. I have been very, very fortunate and I am most grateful.” “This will bring to a close one of the most significant political careers in the province’s history,” noted Premier Hamm. “Ron Russell’s accomplishments and service are in a league of their own. It’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing them. Nova Scotia owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ron for his enormous contribution to our province. I am very grateful, as are all of his colleagues, for all of the wisdom and guidance he’s given so many of us over the years.” Ron Russell was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1978 and re-elected in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1993, 1998, 1999 and 2003. He has been Speaker of the House on three separate occasions. He holds the distinction of being the first MLA to be elected Speaker by his legislative peers. His cabinet duties have included responsibility for the departments of Environment and Labour, Consumer Affairs, Health, Housing and Municipal Affairs, Transportation and Public Works, for Human Resources, and the Public Service Commission. Mr. Russell has been deputy premier, chair of management board, registrar general, solicitor general, provincial secretary, chair of Priorities and Planning Committee, chair of Treasury and Policy Board and government House leader.