B.C.’s Premier Clark wins Kelowna byelection

KELOWNA, B.C. — Premier Christy Clark will have a seat once again in British Columbia’s legislature, after she cruised to a commanding victory in Wednesday’s byelection in the riding of Westside-Kelowna.

KELOWNA, B.C. — Premier Christy Clark will have a seat once again in British Columbia’s legislature, after she cruised to a commanding victory in Wednesday’s byelection in the riding of Westside-Kelowna.

With more than two-thirds of the ballots counted, Clark has nearly double the number of votes than her closest opponent, New Democrat Carole Gordon.

Clark was largely credited with engineering the surprising come-from-behind Liberal win in May’s provincial election, but she lost her own seat in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding.

Clark’s determined and charismatic campaign style propelled the Liberals to a fourth consecutive mandate, even though pollsters forecast an Opposition New Democrat win.

Former Westside-Kelowna Liberal MLA Ben Stewart stepped aside shortly after the May election, paving the way for Clark to run in the Okanagan city, where two former premiers, W.A.C. Bennett and Bill Bennett were also elected.

Two Kelowna-area Liberal MLAs were cheering at Clark’s victory party.

“Thank goodness its done,” said Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick about the overload of political campaigning Clark and the Liberals have participated in recently.

“It’s time for us to move forward with our new premier and our new MLA. Now she’s going to lead from the floor of the legislature.”

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said Clark’s return to the legislature adds to the profile of the Okanagan.

“She’s got a passion for the province,” said the Forests Minister. “She’s got a passion for this area.”

Earlier Wednesday, Clark said voters in the riding were telling her she would be getting their votes because she guided the Liberals to victory two months ago.

Gordon and BC Conservative Party candidate Sean Upshaw were two of seven other candidates challenging Clark for the seat.

Gordon emphasized during the almost month-long campaign that Clark was an outsider, compared to her own four decades in the community.

During an all-candidates meeting last week, Clark said it was time to start the planning process for a second crossing over Okanagan Lake, a hot topic for voters who sit in traffic waiting to cross between West Kelowna and the City of Kelowna.

There were almost 45,000 people eligible to vote in the byelection, but fewer than half of those voted in the May election.

Voter turnout in byelections is consistently lower than in general elections.

In April 2012, just 41 per cent of voters cast ballots in the Chilliwack-Hope byelection, while even fewer people, 32 per cent, voted in the Port Moody-Coquitlam byelection.

Clark will now be able to return to the legislature which is in the middle of a rare summer sitting.

The main goal for the legislative session is to pass the Liberal government’s balanced budget that was introduced in February but was not passed before the May election.