Christy Clark is breaking with tradition.
The B.C. premier, seeking a seat in the B.C. Legislature by running in the Westside-Kelowna byelection July 10, will do what none of her predecessors in the last 30 years did—participate in an all-candidates’ debate at the riding level.
Clark will join the other seven candidates vying for the Westside-Kelowna seat in the debate slated for July 4 in Westbank.
Clark agreed to participate Monday, as did NDP candidate Carole Gordon and B.C. Conservative Sean Upshaw. Independents Daylene Van Ryswyk, Silverado Socrates, Korry Zeplik, John Marks and Jag Bhandari of the B.C. Vision Party are also running in the byelection and are expected to participate.
The debate is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the Westbank Lions Community Hall and will be moderated by Andrew Glass of CBC Radio.
For Clark, who plans to also participate in the Westside Daze Parade in Westbank this weekend, as well as serve Canada Day cake on Monday at both the West Kelowna and the Kelowna Canada Day celebrations (different cake-cutting times), participation in the all-candidates’ debate will mark a change in tactics from her failed bid to retain her Vancouver-Point-Grey seat in the provincial election May 14.
There, she did not participate in any all-candidates’ debates in her riding during the campaign, instead focussing on her role as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party. She travelled the province drumming up support for other Liberal candidates.
In the provincial election, she lead her party to a surprise win, with the Liberals taking 49 of the 85 seats in the B.C. Legislature. The NDP took 34 and two independents elected.
Clark lost the riding to the NDP’s David Eby by just over 1,000 votes.
Clark did participate in two provincial leaders’ debates during the provincial campaign—one on television and one on radio.
Even before being sworn back into office, Westside-Kelowna victor, incumbent Liberal MLA Ben Stewart, who easily held the riding with 58 per cent of the vote, announced he was stepping down to let Clark run in a byelection here.
Earlier this month, Stewart’s wife posted on Facebook that her husband was “asked to give it up for the good of the province so that Christy Clark could have an easy win.”
In the same post, she said she was “devastated” by that.
“There’s something very wrong with this whole situation,” she wrote.
Asked about that post. Stewart said Clark only asked him to give up the seat after he offered to step aside—as did several other successful Liberal candidates—and after she chose to accept his offer. He reiterated Clark did not ask him to give up his seat before he made the offer.
Ruth Stewart later deleted the first post post and according to Black Press Legislative bureau reporter Tom Fletcher posted this message:
“A few days have passed and time helps put everything into perspective. The last posting was all about me when it really should have been about Ben and the people of B.C. I was angry and hurt which I don’t need to apologize for but I am feeling very positive that everything will work out. No use hanging onto the negative….”
Meanwhile, two of Clark’s challengers, Gordon and Upshaw, have said they are eager to debate Clark about local issues, with Gordon even accusing Clark of “ducking” her in a news released issued Monday just hours before Clark’s camp confirmed her participation in the July 4 all-candidates debate.
Upshaw criticized Clark for not committing to participate in a debate sooner.
Asked if she would participate, the premier said she wanted to and was wiling to but it would depend on her schedule as premier.
“I think she should have been out in front of this,” said Upshaw Tuesday.
The debate in Westbank will be jointly hosted by the Kelowna and the Wesbank and District chambers of commerce.