By Charlie Hodge
At least three people are going to have their heart broken on Valentine’s Day.
Silly season is starting earlier than anticipated thanks to last summer’s unexpected resignation by MLA/Premier Christy Clark resulting in next month’s byelection. Residents within the Kelowna West riding will be electing a new MLA on Feb. 14. That’s just 10 days after the provincial Liberal party holds its leadership vote.
Some suggest Valentine’s Day date is a heartfelt gesture by Premier John Horgan. Others would joke it’s heartless. Either way with four people running for one job, three will finish the day with a bit of a whole in theirs.
Losing sucks. Believe me, I know. Been there, done that.
No matter what anyone tells you, before or after an election, and regardless of how much work or energy or money you put into a campaign, rejection by the electorate feels like a kick in the, well… stomach among other places. There really is no solace in knowing you did your best, fought a good fight, or played by the rules and still got kicked to the curb. Losing sucks.
It seems our former premier felt the same way when her party was dethroned in the last provincial election in July. On Aug. 4 shortly after losing the election a pouting Christy basically told B.C listeners she was taking her ball and going home. Her resignation came just days after an election speech that said winners never quit.
For most that decision meant they had lost their premier, however for myself and any other constituent within the Kelowna West riding it meant we lost our MLA. An MLA who brashly forced the actual elected area MLA Ben Stewart to step aside so she could be premier after she lost her own riding seat.
Voters had elected Ben, not Christy and not all were pleased, then or now. Liberals suggested Ben was happy to give up his seat for Christy. Uh huh, sure he was.
The sad reality is no one from this riding would be going to the polls if not for Christy’s myopic decision. Clearly she never really cared about the riding or its needs or she would have finished her term.
However, even the existence of the Kelowna West riding smacks of gerrymandering or at least political manipulation. The new riding was created by the province supposedly to create three balanced ridings within the region based on population distribution, however there is no geographical nor social logic to the convoluted plan. I live in the slice of land more or less between Springfield and Bernard Avenue from the bridge to Spall Avenue. The remainder of the riding is across the bridge encompassing the west side and West Kelowna.
Political pundits suggested that move was akin to a similar border bending a few decades ago which saw Socred Grace McCarthy get elected. That map manipulation was tagged Gracie’s Finger. I refer to the new nonsense as Christy’s Thumb.
Regardless of how we got here, Kelowna West voters have a choice of four fine folks to represent us: Shelley Cook (NDP), Robert Stupka (Green), Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian), and of course former MLA Ben Stewart (BC Liberals). I salute each of them for tossing their name in the hat.
I have not met (yet) Stupka or Geronazzo, however I personally know both Shelley and Ben and believe either of them would be excellent choices and certainly sincere in their desires to serve.
This race would not really have been considered a close contest in the past however the political appetite and landscape, especially in the Kelowna West riding, has changed somewhat the past year or so. While traditionally still Liberal turf (can you say Socred lineage?) many Kelowna area folks were not pleased with the recent Liberal party’s actions nor with Clark’s resignation. That move galled a lot of voters particularly after ousting Stewart who they had voted for.
Ben is popular and from a well-respected long time Okanagan family however both Christy and his party have done him no favours. Shelley has earned her spot in the fight, working hard in the previous election and remaining in the public eye. The NDP, while sputtering and stuttering to some degree, have still managed to impress many Okanagan residents and politicians. Even Stupka and the Greens have a shot if he can quickly mount an impressive and decisive campaign with effective messaging. A split between the two frontrunners could actually see Stupka slip up the middle.
Either way, the game is on and the silly season officially kicked off. Adding to the silliness is the fact that the Liberal leadership battle will happen Feb. 4.
All of which means we will at least have a little time to recover before the municipal games heat up for the Oct. 20 election.
Oh joy, oh bliss.
Charlie Hodge has been writing for the Capital News since the late 1970s.
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