B.C. Premier John Horgan is finally ready call the byelection in Kelowna West.
Following the official nomination of Shelley Cook, the NDP’s candidate in the riding on Sunday, Horgan told reporters he will call by byelection in early January, and Kelowna West voters will head to the polls in early February.
He said he wants the winner in the legislature when the NDP government brings down its budget the third week of February.
Horgan has until early February to call the vote, which would be followed by a 28-day campaign.
The seat became vacant Aug. 4 when former Liberal premier Christy Clark quit politics after the NDP and the B.C. Greens teamed up to defeat her minority government following last May’s provincial election. In that election, the Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens three.
The current numbers in the B.C. Legislature are 41 seats each for the NDP and the Liberals, three for the B.C. Greens and one independent—speaker Daryl Plecas, a former B.C. Liberal. Kelowna West remains vacant.
The Liberals are currently in the midst of leadership contest to replace Clark, with six candidates vying for the job. They debated each other Saturday in Kelowna.
In the upcoming byelection, Cook will run against the riding’s former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart and a Green candidate who will be named Monday.
Horgan said he did not ask Green Party leader Andrew Weaver to refrain from fielding a candidate in Kelowna West to give Cook a better chance of winning. He said he is confident Cook can win despite the riding’s long history of electing first Social Credit MLAs and then B.C. Liberal MLAs.
“I think voters here are tired of the Liberals treating this riding like a commodity, to be traded,” said Horgan, noting with the upcoming byelection there will have been four elections in Kelowna West in the last four years—two provincial elections and two byelections.
In 2013, Stewart stepped down after being re-elected in Kelowna West to allow Clark to run. She easily won the byelection and in May was re-elected with 59.6 per cent of the vote over Cook, who finished second and and Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu.
Horgan said he plans to return to the riding often between now and the byelection to campaign for Cook.
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