Calls for a byelection date heat up in Chilliwack-Hope

BC Liberals accused of "manipulating" the byelection date for Chilliwack-Hope.

BC Conservative and NDP byelection candidates are putting the heat on Premier Christy Clark to give Chilliwack-Hope voters back their voice in the legislature.

“We’ve got some serious needs pressing,” NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony said Tuesday.

Like court backlogs, a dialysis clinic for kidney patients, and all the other issues that a sitting MLA would handle, she said.

“The Legislature has been sitting for two weeks, and people in our communities have not had a voice at the table,” O’Mahony said.

“It’s time for the Premier to call this byelection to make sure that we have a voice in the B.C. Legislature.”

BC Conservative candidate John Martin said there is no reason for the delay.

He said the BC Liberal government is cynically “manipulating the byelection date to such a time as is advantageous to them.”

While it was the BC Liberals who enacted fixed dates for provincial elections to rule out such shenanigans, Martin said the same hasn’t held true for byelections.

“It’s a fault in our system,” he said, as it means voters like those in Chilliwack-Hope are treated like second-class citizens if they need to speak to their representative in government.

“They deserve the right to go and see their MLA and seek assistance,” he said.

But Martin believes polling by the BC Liberal party is telling them “now is not the time” to call a byelection, which are traditionally tough on governing parties.

“They’re thinking about their own dismal election chances,” Martin said.

But BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness said he’s just as eager as the other candidates to get on with the byelection.

“I hope it’s soon, but that’s up to the Premier,” he said, about calling a byelection date.

“It’s only been about 30 days since Barry Penner resigned,” Throness pointed out.

“I think the Premier will get to it very soon.”

The fact is the Premier has six whole months to call a byelection from the time a riding seat is vacated.

That means in Chilliwack-Hope, the Premier could wait until July 30 to set a byelection date 28 days later in August.

Penner officially resigned on Jan. 9.

In Port Moody-Coquitlam, the other B.C. riding currently without a sitting MLA, the Premier could wait until April 7 to announce a byelection date.

Martin said it is “inexcusable” that the people in that riding have been waiting months for a byelection.

“These people have been without a voice for almost five months,” he said. “It’s totally inexcusable.”

O’Mahony said it’s her understanding that Premier Clark was going to call both byelections at the same time, “but she hasn’t called either one.”

“If she’s trying to improve her image,” O’Mahony added, then Clark’s hesitancy to call the byelections isn’t helping.

“She appears to be indecisive and prone to flip-flopping,” O’Mahony said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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