VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark took a major step towards returning to British Columbia's legislature by announcing a July 10 byelection date Wednesday, while New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix described his official return to the legislature in Opposition as bittersweet.
Dix admitted he would have been much happier if he was participating in a ceremony to swear in a new NDP government, but the majority of B.C. voters had other ideas, electing Clark's Liberals to a fourth consecutive term.
"We would have hoped that this would have been the swearing in of a new government. Everybody knows that," said Dix after 34 New Democrat MLA's were officially welcomed to the legislature. "It's obviously disappointing on the one hand, but it's great to see such an outstanding Opposition which will serve the people of B.C. so well."
The New Democrats lost the May 14 election in stunning fashion to Clark's Liberals whom pollsters and much of the media had pegged to lose after three terms in office.
Dix said an informal NDP review of the party's election failures is already underway, but he expects the workings of a formal review, including terms of reference, will be determined within the next 10 days by the party's provincial council.
"What we're going to do on the NDP side is conduct a review of the election," he said. "It's an extremely disappointing result. There's lots of reflection taking place right now and I think that's useful."
Dix, who has previously said there will be opportunities to determine his leadership at the party's convention next fall, sidestepped leadership questions, choosing to focus on how the NDP will approach the upcoming legislative session and contest the Westside-Kelowna byelection, where Clark is running.
"We have to get back to work and do our job of holding the government to account," he said.
Dix said there are already signs that the Liberals are looking to reward their insiders, with one of the government's first moves involving approving pay increases for ministerial staff workers.
Clark has plans to go door knocking in the Westside-Kelowna riding.
The byelection vote comes after Liberal MLA Ben Stewart stepped aside to create the vacancy in what is considered a safe Liberal riding, where win with 58 per cent of the vote.
"In 28 days we will have election day, when people will be choosing their next MLA," said Clark. "And Ben Stewart is going to be my campaign chair and he will be beside me the whole time during the byelection. I think people who know he served them so well over the years will be pleased to know that."
While the Liberal party won the election last month, Clark lost her seat to New Democrat David Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey.
Clark said she plans to become a presence in the Okanagan community.
"I will be establishing a secondary residence there, but people know I haven't made my home there, all my life. It is so important for me to hear people, understand what the issues are, so that I can take those concerns to Victoria."
Dix said the NDP's candidate, elementary school teacher Carole Gordon, has a major head start on Clark when it comes to local roots, because she's lived in Kelowna for 40 years. Gordon finished a distant second to Stewart in the May election.
The Conservatives announced earlier this week that Realtor Sean Upshaw would be running for the party in the byelection.
The Green Party is not be fielding a candidate. (CKFR)
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