FREDERICTON (CNB) - Attorney General and Justice and Consumer Affairs Minister Michael Murphy has resigned as minister and as government house leader effective immediately.

Murphy indicated this morning that he will resign as the MLA for Moncton North in several weeks. This period will allow him to complete pending work and to close out his constituency office.

"I accept the resignation of Mike Murphy as minister and house leader with deep regret," said Premier Shawn Graham. "This is not an easy decision for him to make, but one which he must make for the best interests of himself and his family. He has been a valued colleague and an active and engaged minister and MLA who has always put the interests of his constituents and New Brunswickers first."

Local Government Minister Bernard LeBlanc will succeed Murphy as minister of justice and consumer affairs. Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock will assume additional duties as attorney general. Finance Minister Greg Byrne will take over Murphy's role as government house leader.

Moncton East MLA Chris Collins has been named to succeed LeBlanc as minister of local government. Collins will be sworn in as minister on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the legislative assembly.

Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault will be appointed as deputy government house leader. Restigouche-la-Vallée MLA Burt Paulin will succeed Collins as government whip.

"I am very happy to appoint Chris Collins to cabinet as minister of local government," Graham said. "Chris has proven his ability to lead as government whip and as a committee chair, and I am certain that he will bring his enthusiasm and experience to the table as minister."

Collins was elected March 5, 2007, in a byelection as the member for Moncton East. As an MLA, he served as the government whip and chaired the select committee on wellness. He was a member of the standing committees on Crown corporations, legislative officers and public accounts; he was also a member of the select committee on lifelong learning.

Born in Saint John, he graduated from high school in Moncton and studied political science and philosophy at Saint Thomas University. Working for more than two decades in corporate sales and accounts for a number of major companies, Collins was elected to Moncton city council during the 2004 municipal election and chaired the water and sewer rates review committee. He is devoted to a number of causes, including funding for families that must leave the province for medically referred heath care; and improving pediatric oncology care in the province. He and his wife, Lisette Richard, live in Moncton.

Murphy was first elected to the legislature assembly on June 9, 2003, and he was re-elected on Sept. 18, 2006. As a member of the official Opposition, he served as finance critic. Murphy was sworn in as minister of health on Oct. 3, 2006. He became government house leader on Oct. 17, 2007, and he was named attorney general and justice and consumer affairs minister on June 22, 2009.

Murphy holds a bachelor of business administration and a bachelor of law from the University of New Brunswick as well as a master of law from Osgoode Law School, York University. He has practised law for 22 years in both official languages throughout New Brunswick. He is also a member of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society and is actively involved in many community events and organizations. Murphy is married to the former Moira Kelly, also a barrister, and they have five children: Timothy, Tara, Keegan, Molly and Aodhán.

"I wish Mike all the best and, on behalf of all his colleagues, I thank him for his hard work and dedication as a minister and representative for the people of Moncton North," Graham said. "As minister of health, Mike provided strong leadership for our government in bringing forward difficult health reforms that put patients first, lowered wait times, added health professionals and moved money from health bureaucracy to health care. He should be very proud of his record, and the whole government is proud of his record as well. We will miss his insight and his passion around the cabinet table and in caucus."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Premier will be available to media at 2 p.m. TODAY, in front of Room 209, Centennial Building, 670 King St., Fredericton.