Ste­wart may be in­ter­ested in re­claim­ing job as MLA

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

The Okana­gan Week­end

It might be com­ing full cir­cle for Ben Ste­wart.

In 2013, Ste­wart gave up his seat so then-pre­mier and Lib­eral leader Christy Clark could run in his West­side rid­ing af­ter los­ing in her own Van­cou­ver rid­ing on elec­tion night.

With Clark ousted as pre­mier af­ter this May’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion and quit­ting as Lib­eral leader and Kelowna West MLA on Fri­day, the door has been opened for Ste­wart to get back into pol­i­tics if he wants to.

“This is a very dif­fer­ent day than when I woke up,” Ste­wart told The Okana­gan Week­end on Fri­day in ref­er­ence to Clark’s sur­prise an­nounce­ments.

“I will think about it (seek­ing the Lib­eral nom­i­na­tion to run in the Kelowna West by­elec­tion), but I have to check the tem­per­a­ture with a bunch of peo­ple be­fore I jump back in the fire.”

Ste­wart has lit­er­ally been around the world since he gave up his seat in 2013 so Clark could re­turn to the leg­is­la­ture.

Shortly af­ter va­cat­ing his MLA job, Clark named Ste­wart Bri­tish Columbia’s spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Asia based in Bei­jing to pro­mote trade be­tween the prov­ince and nu­mer­ous Asian coun­tries.

At the end of last year, Ste­wart re­signed from that job to re­turn to fam­ily and his fam­ily’s busi­ness in West Kelowna. That busi­ness is Quails’ Gate Win­ery. When Ste­wart left the com­pany in 2009 to be­come an MLA, his brother, Tony, took over as pres­i­dent.

With his MLA-and-Asia-rep days be­hind him, Ste­wart re­turned to the win­ery as a di­rec­tor and started to work on spe­cial projects to in­crease pro­duc­tion and ex­ports, uti­liz­ing his po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Tony called me as soon as he heard the news about Christy, also want­ing to know if I would be leav­ing again to run,” said Ste­wart.

“I wasn’t an­tic­i­pat­ing hav­ing to think about this. But now that the sit­u­a­tion has changed, I’m think­ing more about it.”

While Ste­wart said it would be hard to leave the win­ery af­ter just re­turn­ing to it, he’s will­ing to con­sider do­ing it so Kelowna West has good rep­re­sen­ta­tion and good govern­ment un­der the free en­ter­prise ban­ner.

Ste­wart hadn’t spo­ken with Clark as of Fri­day af­ter­noon.

“I know it must have been an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for her,” he said.

“But in the end, a good leader has to make a de­ci­sion of what’s best for the party. She’s still a good leader, but lead­er­ship is one of those things that once there’s a chink in the ar­mour, it looks like time to step down.”

The gov­ern­ing NDP has up to six months to call a by­elec­tion for Kelowna West once Clark’s res­ig­na­tion takes ef­fect on Fri­day.

That po­ten­tially means it could be early next year be­fore there’s a new MLA for the rid­ing.

Although Clark’s res­ig­na­tion was a shock Fri­day, it will be taken in stride in Kelowna West.

While it was sig­nif­i­cant to have a pre­mier as a lo­cal MLA, it was not new.

W.A.C. Ben­nett was both, as was his son, Bill. How­ever, the Ben­netts were from Kelowna, Clark is not.

She parachuted in when things didn’t work out in her home rid­ing of Van­cou­ver-Point Grey.

The Okana­gan Week­end at­tempted to speak with Clark. Two calls and mes­sages to her press sec­re­tary went unan­swered.

Clark was be­ing quiet on Fri­day, let­ting the brief writ­ten state­ment she re­leased in the morn­ing suf­fice.

The sce­nario meant spec­u­la­tion swirled in the po­lit­i­cal sphere con­cern­ing what Clark might be mov­ing onto, who is in­ter­ested in be­ing the next Lib­eral leader and who will vie for Kelowna West MLA.

Kelowna Lake Coun­try MLA Norm Let­nick, part of what was re­ferred to as Team Lib­eral Okana­gan with Clark and Kelowna Mis­sion MLA Steve Thom­son, is sorry to see Clark go.

“We worked well to­gether and she is an ex­cel­lent leader,” Let­nick told The Okana­gan Week­end.

“She also cre­ated his­tory in B.C. as the first woman to be re-elected pre­mier. She will be missed.”

Let­nick said Lib­eral Party ma­chin­ery will get to work soon on the jobs of choos­ing a new leader and pick­ing some­one to run in the Kelowna West by­elec­tion.

Ste­wart

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