One of the Okanagan’s better-known politicians won’t be seeking re-election in next year’s provincial election.
On Wednesday, Ben Stewart, the MLA for Kelowna West, told Global News he’ll be retiring soon.
He was first elected in 2009, then again in 2013, 2018 and 2020. He also gave up his seat in 2013 for B.C.’s then-premier Christy Clark, who failed to win her riding in Vancouver.
Ben Stewart is returning to the legislature after winning Wednesday’s by-election in the riding of Kelowna-West
As a thank you, Clark appointed Stewart as B.C.’s trade commissioner for Asia, a three-year job that came with a reported salary of $150,000 a year.
In 2018, after Clark and the BC Liberals were ousted from power, Clark resigned, allowing Stewart to reclaim his seat.
Recently, the rebranded BC Liberals, now called the BC United Party, have been announcing candidates for next year’s election.
“And so we’ve been working on a plan with our leader, Kevin Falcon, to make certain that those are completed by a date sometime this fall,” said Stewart, who founded Quail’s Gate Winery.
“So today was the day that it came out that I had let the leader know that I wasn’t going to be seeking re-election in the next election.”
Kelowna West 2020 race: Ben Stewart, BC Liberal Party
Asked what prompted that decision, Stewart said it was time to focus his energies elsewhere.
“I’ve been doing this since 2009. And so by the time this is finished, it’ll be about 15 years of being an MLA,” he said.
“I love the work; don’t get me wrong. I always look forward to the thrill of being able to help people, and try to find better ways to do things, working with both the government as an opposition member.
“There is a limit to probably how much time that one can dedicate to this. I’m looking at my granddaughter, who’s turning 14 and another few weeks, and she was born after I was first elected.
“It starts to add up and you start to realize that there’s a time for everything.”
Asked who he thinks will run for BC United in next year’s election, Stewart said he’d been contacted by interested people already,
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“It’s a lot of hard work (to get elected). And that’s only the start of the hard work,” he said.
“Hard work comes after you get elected, so I’m looking forward to finding a good candidate. But again, it’s up to the members of the party to make that final decision.”
Notably, the Central Okanagan will undergo some electoral boundary changes for next year’s election. Instead of Kelowna West, Kelowna-Mission and Kelowna-Lake Country, there will now be West Kelowna-Peachland (population: 55,000), Kelowna Centre (59,000), Kelowna-Mission (59,000) and Kelowna-Lake Country-Coldstream (58,000).
Looking ahead, Stewart said while it’s important to tackle daily issues, he hopes future politicians also regularly look long-term as well.
“I’m glad to see that transportation was looking at the idea of adding an extra lane to the bridge. And that’ll make a difference on the short term and long term,” he said.
“I’d like them to see them planning instead of 10 years, more like 50 years ahead and thinking about how these communities are going to grow and make certain we have adequate infrastructure to support that.”
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