Waters: Kelowna West byelection was a pricey exercise in democracy

Taxpayers shelled out $565,000 because its former MLA didn’t want to stick around in opposition

What if you spent a lot of money on a party and only a few people showed up?

That’s what happened to Elections B.C. back on Valentine’s Day when it held the Kelowna West byelection.

According to the newly released official report on the byelection by Elections B.C, taxpayers spent more than half a million dollars—$565,538 to be precise—to hold the vote and less than a third of eligible voters—14,972—showed up to cast ballots.

Former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart won in a landslide, taking more than 56 per cent of the vote.

But it cost him a pretty penny. Elections B.C. says he spent $87,790 to win back the job he gave up in 2013 to let his then boss, former premier Christy Clark, seek the riding after she lost her Vancouver seat in the provincial election that year. His closest spending rival in the race, B.C. Green Robert Shupka shelled out just under $55,000 but finished a distant third. NDP candidate Shelley Cook finished second and spent just over $49,000.

The report is timely given the current debate over how the province should elect its MLAs in the future.

Stewart won back his old seat under what’s known as the “first-past-the-post” system. Under that system, each riding holds an individual election during a larger provincial general election and the candidate with the most votes in that riding wins the seat. The party with most seats gets to form the government—or in the case of a minority government, can do a deal with another party to win its support to keep it in power.

Fall’s referendum on proportional representation in B.C., if successful, would change that. MLAs would be “proportioned”—in some cases appointed—based on the total number of votes the party he or she represents gains across B.C. provincial vote. Such a move could directly affect political representation in individual ridings.

A proportional representation system could give smaller parties the potential of having more influence given coalition or minority governments are almost guaranteed. Depending on who you talk to, that would be a good or bad thing. Supporters say it would provide more diverse views. Opponents fear it could give extremist more power.

The Kelowna West byelection report simply counted the cost of Clark’s decision to bolt rather than lead a Liberal Opposition after her government was ousted by the NDP and B.C. Green Party in a vote of non-confidence in the legislature shortly after May’s provincial vote.

After publicly stating she would stay on and represent the constituents of Kelowna West who re-elected her in the May vote, she abruptly quit, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill to elect her replacement.

Meanwhile, the cost of Clark’s parting gift to B.C. taxpayers may become ammunition in the battle over how we elect MLAs in future. Under an alternative system, an MLA could still quit, but if there was more than one MLA representing a riding, it would not leave the constituents without political representation in Victoria for the nearly six months it took to replace Clark.

The formal campaigns leading to the PR referendum are expected to start in the next few weeks.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

West Kelowna begin flushing Lakeview Water System

Water service will not be interrupted but boil water notices will be in effect

Prospera Place gives credit union members a break on parking

Prospera Credit Union members will receive $2 off event parking

Growing Okanagan tech sector hailed in new report

Study shows sector employees 12, 474 workers and is worth $1.67 billion to regional economy

Kelowna mayoral candidates clash over Costco location

A tale of two mayoral candidates, and a Costco

Okanagan Sun tackle Chilliwack Saturday in BCFC action

The Sun will be looking for revenge at home after Corn Huskers beat them 22-18 earlier in season

Pavement Patty slows drivers near Rutland Elementary

New survey reveals unsafe school zones during 2018 back-to-school week

First Nations block roads to stop the moose hunt in B.C.’s Interior

Chief Joe Alphonse confirmed Thursday they’ve deactivated the Raven Lake Road and the Mackin Creek Road just before the Island Lake turnoff

‘Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie’: Birds fall dead from the sky in B.C. city

Raptor expert says he’s never seen it happen anywhere in the Lower Mainland

Canada signs global pact to help rid world’s oceans of abandoned fishing gear

The federal Fisheries Minister says it’s a ‘critical issue’

GOP pushing forward for Kavanaugh, accuser wants ‘fairness’

Kavanaugh has denied al allegations of sexual misconduct

Tent city campers now allowed to stay in B.C. provincial park

Contrary to earlier reports, Ministry of Environment says there is no deadline for campers to leave Greater Victoria camp site

Bus company vies to replace Greyhound in Kamloops to Vancouver, Kelowna

Alberta-based Ebus applies to the Passenger Transportation Board to replace Greyhound

Former VP of Lululemon joins B.C. cannabis cultivation facility

Kerry Biggs will be the chief financial officer of True Leaf, in Lumby

Summerland retrofits its streetlights

Conversion to LED streetlights expected to save more than $72,000 a year

Most Read