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Gordon Campbell hints he'll step down as MLA Add to ...

Premier Gordon Campbell hinted strongly Sunday that he will fade into the political sunset, once his successor as Liberal leader is chosen next February.

Asked whether he would stay on as an MLA under a different premier, Mr. Campbell said his continued presence in the Liberal caucus might not be a good thing for the new person at the top.

"I don't want, in any way, to cramp the style of the new leader and their opportunity to purse their own vision," the premier told reporters after officially opening the government-funded, open air skating rink at Robson Square in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

He said he would discuss his political future with his successor after relinquishing the premier's reins, but added: "I think it's very difficult to stay on in caucus, when you've been the leader for 17 years."

Should Mr. Campbell step down as MLA not long after the Feb. 26 Liberal leadership contest, it would provide the victor with a chance to test his or her popularity with a quick by-election in the premier's riding of Vancouver-Point Grey.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Campbell refused to be drawn into any assessment of the current race and its four declared candidates to date.

"I'm looking forward to following a leader who says 'I'm excited about British Columbia and this is where I want to go in the next 10 years,'" he said.

"I'm not going to be premier in three months....but I have not stopped caring about British Columbia. I do think it's time for new leadership and some exciting visions that will take us into the [future]"

The premier was also reluctant to say too much about the bitter, internal squabbling that has beset the opposition New Democratic Party and its beleaguered leader, Carole James.

However, he said the person leading a party is not the issue, it's the party's ideas.

"It's the principles they believe in. I think one of the challenges of the NDP is that they've had trouble searching out the principles that they stand on. That's their challenge," Mr. Campbell said.

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