Stewart may be interested in reclaiming job as MLA
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.