Voters in Kelowna-West will go to the polls again February 14 for the second time in less than a year in a byelection to fill the seat vacated by former premier Christy Clark.
Then again, voters in that riding are used to byelections.
The outcome of the February 14 vote could change the math in the legislature in favour of the NDP-Green coalition in a significant way, if either an NDP or Green candidate were to win the seat.
The Liberals won 43 seats in the May 2017 general election, but lost Darryl Plecas, who was removed from the Liberal Party after he accepted the role of Speaker of the House, and then lost Clark, who resigned, bringing the Liberals temporarily down to just 41 seats. The NDP hold 41 seats, but can count of the Green Party’s three members, since they have a governing agreement.
Should either NDP or Green candidates win Kelowna West, that would give the NDP and Greens 45 seats to the Liberals’ 41. That would give the GreeNDP coalition a bit more comfort and stability than the slender single seat plurality they initially had. Such a slender plurality makes a minority government more vulnerable to losing confidence votes, in the event an MLA misses a critical vote.
However, Kelowna-West is considered a safe seat for the Liberals. It is so safe, in fact, that it became a parachute riding in 2013, when Clark lost her seat in the 2013 general election.
Ben Stewart, who is now running again for the Liberals in Kelowna-West, resigned shortly after winning the riding in 2013 to allow Clark run in a byelection. Stewart was rewarded with a post in Beijing as the Liberal government’s Special Representative in Asia.
Shelley Cook, the NDP candidate who ran against Clark in the May 2017, is again running in the byelection for the NDP.
Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu is not running for the Greens in the upcoming byelection. Robert Stupka will be running for the Greens in the byelection.
In the last general election, Clark won 59% of the vote, Cook got 25% and Mellalieu got 14%.
Ian Bushfield, co-host of the PolitiCoast podcast, said he thinks the byelection will be an easy win for the Liberals.
"The Greens are trying to play it up as their chance and Robert Stupka looks like a strong choice for them," he wrote. "That said, the best I could see them doing is closing the gap with the NDP. The one advantage the NDP and Greens have here is that turnout is usually low in byelections and BC Liberal supporters are likely less motivated than the others."