Premier Christy Clark will seek election to the B.C. Legislature in the riding of Westside-Kelowna, after Ben Stewart announced he would step aside.
“I am humbled by Ben Stewart’s unselfish act of character and generosity, and I will be asking the voters of Westside-Kelowna for their support in the pending byelection,” said Premier Clark.
“It is a great honour that our riding has the opportunity to be represented by Premier Christy Clark and it continues a past tradition of British Columbia premiers in the Okanagan,” said Stewart. “She has a strong mandate and I am doing my part to ensure she is in a position to deliver on her vision for a strong economy and secure tomorrow.”
Clark and Stewart met supporters, local residents and the media to announce the decision. Clark will return to the riding once the cabinet announcement and swearing-in is complete.
“I look forward to earning the support of local voters to represent this area. I will do it with dedication and enthusiasm, backed by a strong group of seatmates that includes Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson, Eric Foster and Dan Ashton,” said Premier Clark.
Stewart, who was first elected in 2009, won the riding last month by more than 6,000 votes over the NDP’s Carole Gordon.
Stewart got 58 per cent of the vote in that race.
Wednesday is the first day an MLA could step aside for Clark, as it is when the election results are made final.
Internal discussions had favoured a Kelowna riding for Clark, as it is safe territory where both W.A.C. Bennett and his son Bill Bennett sat when they were premier.
The area also has two other cabinet ministers – Norm Letnick and Steve Thomson – and Clark may have had difficulty maintaining a geographic balance in her new cabinet while keeping all three.
Before becoming an MLA, Stewart was chair of the BC Grape Marketing Board and chairman of the Regional Transportation Advisory Committee for the Thompson Okanagan.
He was also a member of the Presidents Community Advisory Council at UBC Okanagan.