NDP: Clark slow to call byelections for two seats in legislature

One down, two to go.

With the federal election now over, British Columbians soon could head to the polls again in two provincial ridings.

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Premier Christy Clark faced questions Wednesday about when she intends to call byelections to fill two vacant seats in the legislature.

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan of the NDP and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Doug Horne of the Liberals both resigned over the summer to run in the federal election. Kwan won the riding of Vancouver East for the NDP, while Horne lost a bid to represent Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam for the Conservatives.

“It’s been over 100 days since Jenny Kwan resigned her seat as the MLA for Mount Pleasant on July 8,” the NDP’s Shane Simpson said in the legislature.

“It’s been two months since Doug Horne resigned as the MLA for Coquitlam–Burke Mountain on Aug. 14.

“Yet no byelections have been called to ensure that the constituents in those two areas have the elected representation that they deserve.”

By contrast, Simpson said, it took Clark only seven days to call a byelection in West Kelowna in 2013 so she could get a seat in the legislature.

Ben Stewart resigned his seat for Clark after she lost Vancouver-Point Grey to the NDP’s David Eby in the general election.

“Will the premier allow the citizens of Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam–Burke Mountain the same rights to representation as the people of West Kelowna and finally call these byelections?” Simpson asked.

In a dig at Kwan, Clark countered that voters have been preoccupied with the longest federal election in Canada since “the member for Disneyland headed off to Ottawa to get on the rides out there.”

Kwan repaid $35,000 to the Portland Housing Society last year after audits revealed the non-profit agency covered the cost of her family’s trips to Disneyland and Europe.

Kwan has said she thought her former husband had covered the expenses himself.

Clark said she’s anxious to get the byelection campaigns underway so she can talk about the differences between the Liberals and the NDP.

A byelection has to be called within six months of an MLA resigning a seat, Elections B.C. said.

That means a byelection must be called by Jan 13 in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and by Feb. 17 in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

Once the election is called, the chief electoral officer issues a writ of election to begin the 28-day campaign.

In the past, the province has held byelections at the same time. If that’s the case again, both would have to be called before Jan. 13.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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