Premier Christy Clark celebrates her victory in the Westside-Kelowna byelection with outgoing MLA Ben Stewart and supporters at the Delta Grand hotel. Clark's decision to run in the Kelowna riding, after losing her own seat in the provincial election despite an unexpected Liberal triumph, is The Daily Courier's top local news story of the year.
Two shocks rocked the B.C. political landscape this year, and one of them was concentrated in the Central Okanagan.
Months of opinion polls proved stunningly inaccurate in May when the BC Liberals won a convincing victory over the NDP in the provincial election.
The Liberals were returned to their fourth straight majority government as the NDP, widely-projected to win government for the first time since 1991, suffered a shattering defeat.
But Liberal Premier Christy Clark - whose energetic, jobs-focused campaign was credited with piloting the party's surprising comeback - lost her own seat in a Vancouver riding.
Six weeks later, Clark again defied expectations - this time by choosing to run in a byelection in Westside-Kelowna rather than a Lower Mainland riding.
In making her announcement, Clark said the Central Okanagan's entrepreneurial zeal and its historic connection to the premier's office convinced her to try make West Kelowna her second home.
"This is the cradle of free enterprise in Canada, and I am honoured to carry those values forward," Clark said.
Two previous premiers, W.A.C. Bennett and his son, Bill Bennett, were both from Kelowna. Together, they were in power for 30 years.
"They were two great leaders who shaped our province, two great leaders who represented this community," Clark said. "I hope that, with the blessing of the people from Westside-Kelowna, I can be the third premier to bring a vision to British Columbia from this community."
In the early July byelection, Clark easily cruised to victory, capturing 62 per cent of the vote.
That was an even higher percentage of support than was claimed in May by Ben Stewart, the Liberal MLA who gave up his seat to trigger the byelection.
Many MLAs had offered to resign, including the other two Kelowna-area Liberal representatives, Steve Thomson and Norm Letnick. But Stewart's offer was the one Clark accepted, and Stewart's voice broke as he said he'd offered to quit for the good of both the Liberal party and the province.
"I want to ensure the premier gets a chance to deliver on not just our vision but some of the real things we need to do to make certain that British Columbia moves ahead," Stewart said.
"Stepping aside doesn't mean stepping down," Stewart said, indicating he would stay active with the party and Liberal government.
In October, Stewart received his reward for giving up his seat when Clark named him to the newly-created position of Commission of Trade and Investment, with a special focus on Asia.
"This is a crucial time in our trade relations with Asia and we want to strengthen the ties that attract new investment to British Columbia," Clark said on Oct. 28.
Since becoming the MLA for Westside-Kelowna, Clark has announced funding for a flood control project on McDougall Creek, accelerated upgrades to Westside Road, increased funding for public transit, and unveiled liquor policy changes intended to help Okanagan wineries.
Adrian Dix, the NDP leader Clark defeated in the May election, has said he will step down.