B.C. Liberal Ben Stewart speaks to supporters and the media Wednesday night at his Quail’s Gate Winery in West Kelowna after winning the Kelowna West provincial byelection. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

MLA-elect waiting to be seated

Kelowna West MLA-elect Ben Stewart won’t be sworn in in time for tomorrow’s B.C. budget

If Ben Stewart was hoping to be sworn in as Kelowna West MLA in time for tomorrow’s provincial budget he’s out of luck.

According to Elections BC, Stewart cannot be sworn in until the district electoral officer returns the writ of election to B.C.’s chief electoral officer and the result is finalized. That is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Elections BC communications manger Andrew Watson said Monday while it is the B.C. Legislature that deals with the swearing in of MLAs, that cannot happen until after the Election BC process is complete and byelection result is finalized.

While Stewart was the clear winner on byelection day (Feb. 14), taking just over just over 56 per cent of the vote, that result is considered unofficial until the final count is completed and reported back to the chief electoral officer. The final count, goes today and will include the counting of the absentee ballots, which were not counted last Wednesday.

On byelection night, the preliminary result showed B.C. Liberal Stewart received 7,692 votes (56.34%), the NDP’s Shelley Cook 3,197 votes (23.42 %), Robert Stupka of the B.C. Green Party 1,746 votes (12.97%), B.C. Conservative Mark Thompson 908 votes (6.65%) and Libertarian Kyle Geronazzo 110 votes (0.81%). Only 29 per cent of the 46,800 eligible voters cast ballots.

When he was in Kelowna in December at NDP candidate Shelley Cook’s nomination meeting, Premier John Horgan said he planned to call the byelection to give the winner enough time to be in the legislature for the budget. But calling it for Feb. 14 meant that would not happen.

Stewart, however, is expected to be sworn in as MLA before the actual vote on the budget takes place. That vote normally takes place a few weeks after the budget is presented in the legislature by the finance minister and is debated by MLAs.

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