Kamloops Liberals said Wednesday a decision by Kevin Falcon to step down as finance minister and not run again is part of the natural change before any election.
"My feeling is the healthiest teams are ones that change and bring in new faces - I'm happy to be one of those new faces," declared Todd Stone, the party's nominee in Kamloops-South Thompson.
Stone is seeking to replace MLA Kevin Krueger, another B.C. Liberal veteran choosing not to run again in 2013.
Falcon told reporters in Victoria Thursday morning he was stepping down because he didn't want to prepare a budget while preparing for a new baby in the family in February.
"For me, as still a young person with some opportunities that might avail themselves in the private sector, I'd like to have a little more work-life balance, and I think I can achieve that with a private-sector job more so than continuing in the public sector," Falcon told a news conference.
He announced Wednesday he and his wife are expecting their second child.
While Liberals are slipping in the polls and well behind the NDP, Falcon bristled at the suggestion he was escaping a sinking ship.
"When people have been in public life for 10, 12, 15, 16 years, you can't say that, because they're leaving, they're jumping ship," he said, while reaffirming his support for the premier.
"One of the things I believe is very important in politics is loyalty. I remain very loyal to our former premier and I remain loyal to this premier."
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said he wasn't surprised at Falcon's move, "given the reason."
"He's made a decision I support as a father."
B.C.'s environment minister said Falcon's decision to step aside will provide opportunity for others who believe in the party and its leader, Premier Christy Clark.
"There's usually 10,12, 15 each election cycle. It's not unusual and provides an opportunity for renewal. We've got great additions - Todd Stone being one."
Stone's opponent, NDP nominee Tom Friedman, called Falcon's decision understandable in light of his family situation
"But it's symptomatic of a feeling the Liberals may be in trouble."
Friedman said Falcon's time as finance minister has added to pain of low- and middle-class income earners hit by rising fees for everything from car insurance to medical premiums while suffering from cuts in services.
"These budgets really shortchanged our regional communities. Kamloops has suffered. They cut taxes, but even Gordon Campbell's chief of staff pointed out there's been huge costs to families."
Falcon, who was first elected to the legislature in 2001, ran unsuccessfully for the Liberal party leadership. He repeatedly criticized Clark because she wouldn't commit to running in a provincial election even if she didn't win the leadership contest.
Clark quickly issued a statement describing Falcon as "the hardest working finance minister in the country," and she thanked him for helping B.C. retain its triple-A credit rating, "despite the worst global recession in generations."
Shirley Bond, who is already justice minister and attorney general, will take over as acting finance minister.
After the leadership vote in February 2011, Clark appointed Falcon as finance minister, giving the Surrey-area politician the daunting task of trying to sell the hated harmonized sales tax to British Columbians.
Voters dumped the tax in a provincewide referendum and Falcon was dutifully overseeing the dismantling of the HST and guiding the return to the previous provincial sales tax, which he often referred to as a "stupid tax."
Falcon represents the riding of Surrey-Cloverdale, where he was first elected in 2001 and then re-elected in 2005 and 2009. He previously served as the minister of health and the minister of transportation.
THE DAILY NEWS/ THE CANADIAN PRESS