Former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart wants his old job back in Kelowna West.—Image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Former MLA gets B.C. Liberal nomination in Kelowna West

Ben Stewart will be acclaimed as his party’s nominee to run in the yet-to-be called byelection.

The man who stepped aside to let former B.C. premier and Kelowna West MLA Christy Clark seek a seat in the B.C. Legislature in 2013, will be the B.C. Liberal’s candidate when a byelection is held in the riding some time before next February.

Ben Stewart, who won two elections for the B.C. Liberals in the riding, then known as Westside-Kelowna, announced shortly after Clark quit politics last month he wanted his old job back and planned to seek his party’s nomination.

With no one else publicly stepping forward to run for the nomination, Stewart will be acclaimed as the Liberal candidate Sept. 21 at a meeting in Westbank.

“Representing the constituents of Kelowna West and serving British Columbia (was) the honour of my lifetime, and I’m humbled by the community’s support and this opportunity to serve again,” Stewart said.

Premier John Horgan has up to six months to call the by-election and said last week he has not given any thought as to when a vote in Kelowna West would be held.

He said with the return to the B.C. Legislature by MLAs next week, the date for the byelection will be given more thought then. The byelection must called before Feb. 4 and once it is, a 28-day campaign will follow.

Clark resigned Aug. 4 and her former constituency office in Westbank is slated to close Sept. 30.

Stewart said he and his team are ready to work hard to win the byelection whenever it is called but he needs Horgan to set a date.

The well-known co-owner of West Kelowna’s Quail’s Gate Winery, Stewart was named B.C.’s special representative to Asia focusing on trade by Clark in 2014 after he stepped aside for her to run in the riding. Just a few weeks earlier he held the riding for the Liberals in the 2013 provincial election, wining by a large margin.

Stewart first won the seat in 2009 and served in three cabinet posts during his term in office—as minister of citizens’ services, community and rural development and agriculture.

Along with fellow area Liberal MLAs Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission), the three dubbed themselves “Team Okanagan.”

Meanwhile, the NDP candidate who lost to Clark in Kelowna West in May’s provincial election said she is considering another run at the seat.

Shelley Cook, who came second to Clark earlier this year, said while she has not made a formal decision about running yet, she is “definitely considering her options.”

“It kind of feels like something I started,” she said Friday.

Whether she runs or not, Cook said she plans to remain fully engaged with the NDP going forward.

If she does run again, it would be the second time in a row that the same NDP candidate who ran for the party in the previous general election runs in the riding in the subsequent byelection.

Carole Gordon, who lost to Stewart in 2013, ran against Clark in the byelection that year and as she did aginst Stewart, finished second.