When West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater met with MLA Ben Stewart to discuss local issues Tuesday afternoon, he had no idea Stewart would be giving up his Westside-Kelowna riding for Premier Christy Clark the next day.
“My initial reaction was: Wow,” said Findlater, noting he learned about Clark’s decision to run for the Westside-Kelowna riding in a byelection around noon Wednesday.
“Premier Clark is full of surprises.”
But as far as the District of West Kelowna is concerned, it might not be a bad surprise.
Findlater said the premier’s announcement will likely be a great lobbying opportunity for the district, especially while she hits the campaign trail in the coming weeks.
“I expect we’ll get her ear for a fair share of events,” said Findlater.
He added he’ll take it upon himself to make sure the premier is aware of local issues.
The West Kelowna mayor noted the region has been “well represented” in the past by high-profile federal and provincial politicians such as Stockwell Day and Rick Thorpe.
It is unlikely Clark will be able to attend the number of local events Stewart was able to during his four-year term as MLA.
Findlater said both Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson and Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick have familiarized themselves with many Westside issues; he’s optimistic the other two Central Okanagan MLAs could cover for the premier when needed if she’s elected MLA in a byelection this summer.
The four-year relationship between the district and Stewart was not always a smooth one.
During the summer of 2011, the district objected to a proposed land exchange between Westbank First Nation and the provincial government.
In November 2011, Stewart told Capital News the issue had put a strain on the relationship between governments.
“Our relationship was not strong at that time, as a result of that,” said Findlater.
“But in the last year or two, when we put that issue behind us, Ben has tuned into our issues…he’s been a really good advocate for us in the last couple of years.”
New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix announced Wednesday the party would run a candidate against Clark in the upcoming byelection.
Findlater said he looks forward to developing a working relationship with the future Westside-Kelowna MLA, regardless of the party he/she belongs to.