Pat Bell and Shirley Bond have seen themselves more than mere caucus mates, they believe they're a team.
For the past 12 years they've represented neighbouring ridings in Prince George and for most of that time shared a seat around the cabinet table. Bond said they build off each other's strengths and have developed a deep friendship over the years.
That friendship will remain long after Sunday's announcement that Bell will step aside after the May election due to a diagnosis of a pulmonary aneurysm, but their team will never be the same.
During an emotional speech at the new Prince George Liberal campaign headquarters, Bond thanked Bell for his time in office and called him a tireless worker.
"Today I know in my heart in heart that Pat made the right decision, he made the choice to protect his health, to be with his family," Bond said. "But undoubtedly I do feel a sense of personal loss and I will miss him enormously. . . . I want him to be healthy and have a very happy life going forward."
Bond's husband Bill was dealing with his own heart issues during the summer and through the fall. He had open heart surgery in December and is recovering well. She hinted that she may have made a different decision about running again had Bill's health not improved.
"Ironically we were both dealing with health issues, me with my husband and Pat with his own personal issues for a number of months," she said.
Prince George-Mackeznie NDP candidate Bobby Deepak was surprised to hear the news Sunday and said he hopes Bell's health stays strong.
"I do wish to thank Pat for all the years of service he's given to the public, the riding of Prince George-Mackenzie, the people of Prince George and the north in general," Deepak said. "And I do wish him a speedy recovery."
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad pointed to Bell's work after the explosion at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and the subsequent decision by Hampton Affiliates to re-build the mill as one of his colleague's lasting legacies.
"I will sorely miss him," Rustad said. "Obviously he's got a lot of strength, he's been able to do a lot of problem solving so a huge thank-you to everything that he's done over the years."
The nomination process for a new candidate will be announced in the coming days. Bond said with someone new coming on board she will "need to step it up another notch" to help them.
"Today is about Pat, tomorrow it's about getting our running shoes on and getting our teams ramped up to choose a new candidate here for Prince George-Mackenzie," she said.
Liberal party supporter Monica Peacock said she's glad doctors were able to catch the aneurysm and wishes Bell the best of health - but even without Bell's name on the ballot she believes the Liberals will hold on to the Prince George-Mackenzie riding.
"I don't believe that we are in any means at risk [of losing Bell's seat]," she said. "We've got two wonderful teams that are only going to be enhanced by that man [Bell] standing behind the new candidate."
Despite his main rival dropping out of the race, Deepak said it won't change his approach to the upcoming campaign.
"From my perspective it doesn't change to too much," he said. "We have a game plan, we're proceeding with it and we'll continue to campaign hard."