B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says his party plans to throw all its resources into the Kelowna West byelection, a race he sees as very important in building on the momentum the Greens created in last May’s provincial election.
Speaking after a town hall meeting in Westbank Thursday night with his Kelowna West candidate Robert Stupka, Weaver said given the influence his party now wields with the NDP government in Victoria, it’s critical the Greens add a fourth MLA to its caucus in the B.C. Legislature.
“Robert would have incredible influence in a minority government situation,” said Weaver.
Weaver and his two other Green MLAs are supporting the minority NDP government, keeping it in power after helping oust the Liberals last summer following the Liberals one-seat victory in the provincial election.
During the town hall meeting, which attracted about 160 people, Weaver described Stupka as “everything that’s new, everything that’s innovative and everything that Kelowna is going to become.”
He said the history of the riding supporting right-of-centre candidates—first Social Credit candidates and then B.C. Liberals—is meaningless this time around given the Liberals are now in opposition.
During the meeting, most of the questions from the audience surrounded provincial issues such as the Site C dam, twinning the Kinder Morgan pipeline and climate change.
Stupka, who has said he plans to make the campaign in Kelowna West more of a regional campaign, said many provincial issues, such as Site C and affordable housing will directly affect Kelowna West.
He agreed with Weaver that the huge cost of the hydro electric damn project in northern B.C. will impact B.C Hydro customers in West Kelowna as they will be faced with rate hikes to pay off the now estimated $15 billion final cost.
The B.C Greens oppose completing Site C and Weaver said he could not understand Premier John Horgan’s decision to continue with the project.
He said he believed the B.C Utilities Commission report, which he took credit for, provided enough information to scuttle the project.
“I’m completely dumbfounded,” he said of Horgan’s decision.
In addition to taking credit for sending Site C to the utilities commission for evaluation, Weaver also took credit for the government’s move to cut MSP premiums by 50 per cent.
For his part, Stupka said he believes the province should be providing this area with more money for issues like regional planning given it is the third largest region in B.C. and said he is opposed to a second crossing of Okanagan Lake if its access roads run through parkland and green space on the Westside.
In last May’s provincial election the Green candidate, Robert Mellalieu, ran a distant third to then-Premier and B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark in the riding, garnering just 13 per cent of the vote.
Both Weaver and Stupka are confident this time the level of support will be higher. Weaver predicted a much better showing this time, saying he plans to come back to the riding many times during the campaign to help Stupka campaign.
Stupka will run against former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart, the NDP’s Shelley Cook, who ran second to Clark last May and Libertarian Kyle Geronazzo.
The byelection, which is expected to be called next week, was prompted by Clark’s resignation following the ouster of her government by the NDP and Greens last summer in a vote of non-confidence.
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