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Les Leyne: A rare easy victory for Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark dodged more than one awkward moment Wednesday night with her runaway romp in Westside-Kelowna. A defeat in the byelection would obviously have been a major humiliation.

Premier Christy Clark dodged more than one awkward moment Wednesday night with her runaway romp in Westside-Kelowna.

A defeat in the byelection would obviously have been a major humiliation. But it also would have created a novel and uncomfortable situation right off the bat for the B.C. Liberals in the legislature.

As B.C. political expert Norman Ruff wondered: Who defends the premier’s spending estimates, when the premier can’t set foot in the legislature?

The debate on spending estimates started during the last week of the campaign. It always culminates with a formalized interrogation of the premier by the Opposition leader.

It’s usually a low-key exchange of views, but it serves as the symbolic debate on the government’s philosophy and plans for the year.

Having a stand in for the premier would have been an uncomfortable substitution that would have been embarrassing for the Liberals. As if they wouldn’t have had enough to worry about at that point.

Even with her overwhelming victory, it’s going to be fairly close.

Elections B.C. by law has to start the final count July 23, but is putting the hustle on this one. They plan to start the final count July 17, and it can take a day or two. The house is expected to rise on July 25.

Any hiccup in the process could push her return back. Clark’s breathless arrival in the house to defend her budget depends a bit on how gracefully the losing candidates in the Kelowna contest take their defeats.

The byelection result is the latest chapter in what’s turning out to be a very up-and-down electoral career for her.

She entered politics in 1996 by winning the Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain seat by 1,500 votes, a relatively close two per cent edge.

She won her seat and the Liberals won the popular vote. But they lost the election because the NDP got a half-dozen more seats.

This May, the Liberals won the popular vote and the general election, but she lost her seat.

In the intervening 17 years, she’s had some close calls at the ballot box.

She crushed the opposition in her next try, winning 75 per cent of the vote in Port Moody-Westwood. That wasn’t unusual as it came in the 2001 rout when the Liberals won all but two seats, most of them by huge margins.

She sat out the 2005 provincial election but took a stab at running for mayor of Vancouver. She lost the nomination of her civic party by a narrow margin, reportedly just 69 votes out of the 2,000 cast. The winner was Sam Sullivan, who has just joined her team as a new Liberal MLA.

After a six-year time-out she ran for the Liberal leadership and took three ballots to win, eventually beating Kevin Falcon by just four percentage points.

It was another close call when she tried to return to the legislature as premier. She ran in a Vancouver-Point Grey byelection and defeated NDP candidate David Eby by just 560 votes, a closer margin than was expected.

Then in the May general election Eby returned the favour, defeating her by almost 800 votes.

Wednesday’s result is her fifth win in seven contests, and is only the second time in her career she could relax a half-hour into the count.

She’s a born campaigner. Now she has to settle down to governing.

Just So You Know: One of the indicators of respect in the house is the number of questions aimed at ministers.

If the Opposition respects a minister, they only ask questions when it’s unavoidable, to avoid being shredded by a compelling answer.

Given Clark’s performance in destroying their dream, putting their leader’s future in doubt, prompting an internal review of everything they stand for, then overcoming a personal loss to scrap her way back to the front bench, I’m betting once she takes her seat, the NDP will ignore her as much as possible.