B.C. Liberal Ben Stewart (left) outspent his Kelowna West byelection opponents Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian), Shelley Cook (NDP), Robert Stupka (B.C. Green) and Mark Thompson (B.C. Conservative) by a large margin in the February vote. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Big spending Ben

B.C. Liberal Ben Stewart far outspent all his opponents in the February Kelowna West byelection

It cost Kelowna West B.C. Liberal MLA Ben Stewart $87,789 to win back the seat he gave up in 2013.

According to figures released by Elections B.C, Stewart outspent his four opponents by a large margin in the byelection held Feb. 14 to replace former premier and Liberal party leader Christy Clark.

Stewart’s closest challenger, NDP candidate Shelley Cook, spent $49,337 of the $51,907 her campaign took in. Stewart spent all the money his campaign raised.

But Cook’s total was not the second highest in the race.

Green Party candidate Robert Stupka outspent Cook according to the financial disclosure documents each candidate had to file following the byelection.

Stupka spent $50,483 of the $59,204 his campaign raised but finished a distant third in the vote.

The largest spending area for all three was advertising, sins and brochures, with Stewart spending a total of $27,918.58, Stupka spending $24,965 and Cook spending $20,222.

In addition, both Stewart and Cook spend heavily on wages for campaign workers—$14,838 by Cook and $12,826 by Stewart. Stupka’s disclosure forms did not list any payments for wages.

The two other candidates in the race—who finished fourth and fifth respectively with only a fraction of the vote each— Conservative Mark Thompson and Libertarian Kyle Geronazzo spend far less than the other three on their campaigns.

Thompson spent $5,368, while Geronazza spent $250.

For Stewart, the byelection win was a return to the provincial political stage.

Shortly after the 2013 B.C. election, he gave up the then Westside-Kelowna seat he had held for the B.C. Liberals since 2009 so Clark, who lost her Vancouver-area seat in that vote, could run in the Okanagan. She easily won the subsequent byelection.

In 2017 she retained the seat—now called Kelowna West—beating Cook. Clark quit politics last summer after her minority government was defeated in the B.C. Legislature.

Under Election B.C. rules, candidates were allowed to spend $58,000 on their campaigns and their parties were allowed to spend the same amount in addition.

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