Premier Clark seeks Kelowna seat

Kelowna-Westside was former premier Bill Bennett's seat, current MLA Ben Stewart stepping aside

Premier Christy Clark introduces her son Hamish to residents at a seniors' home during the recent election campaign. She will campaign again in the Okanagan starting next week

Premier Christy Clark will run in Westside-Kelowna in a by-election expected to be held in mid-July, after re-elected MLA Ben Stewart announced he was stepping down.

Clark praised Stewart Wednesday at an announcement held at Quail’s Gate winery on the shore of Okanagan Lake. Stewart, who won with 58 per cent of the vote, said he would return to running the winery and other parts of his family business, and will continue to volunteer for the B.C. Liberal Party.

Clark said the by-election will likely be called next week, and if she wins the seat she will establish a second residence in the area.

She dubbed the Kelowna area “the cradle of free enterprise in Canada,” and noted it was represented by former premiers W.A.C. and Bill Bennett, whom she called the “Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky” of B.C. political leaders.

“When you think of the vision that W.A.C. Bennett brought to building our province, and you think of the vision that Bill Bennett brought to controlling the growth of government spending, and keeping taxes low for the people here, a great offence and a great defence,” Clark said.

Clark said Stewart was one of several MLAs who offered their seats after she lost her own bid for re-election in Vancouver-Point Grey. Stewart served one term and will not be eligible for an MLA pension, which requires six years’ service.

Results of the May 14 election became official Wednesday, after a judicial recount confirmed a 41-vote win for NDP candidate Selina Robinson in Coquitlam-Maillardville. The B.C. Liberal majority stands at 49 B.C. Liberals, 34 NDP, Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver and Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington.

Clark reiterated her campaign promises to balance the budget and begin paying down the provincial debt, with a 15-year target to become debt free.

She has indicated the legislature will be recalled this summer to pass the budget that was presented in February, which forecasts budget surpluses for the next three years.

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