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Ben Stewart

For the fictional character, see Benjamin 'Ben' Stewart.
The Honourable
Ben Stewart
MLA
MLA for Westside-Kelowna
In office
May 12, 2009 – June 5, 2013
Preceded by first member
Succeeded by Christy Clark
Minister of Citizens' Services and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism and the Public Affairs Bureau of British Columbia
In office
June 10, 2009 – June 11, 2010
Premier Gordon Campbell
Preceded by Wally Oppal
Succeeded by Mary McNeil
Minister of Community and Rural Development of British Columbia
In office
June 11, 2010 – October 25, 2010
Premier Gordon Campbell
Preceded by Bill Bennett
Succeeded by Stephanie Cadieux
Minister of Citizens' Services and Open Government of British Columbia
Incumbent
Assumed office
September 5, 2012
Premier Christy Clark
Preceded by Margaret MacDiarmid
Personal details
Political party Conservative (federal)
BC Liberal (provincial)
Residence West Kelowna, British Columbia
Occupation vintner

Benjamin Richard Stewart is a Canadian politician, who represented the riding of Westside-Kelowna in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 2009 to 2013 as a member of the British Columbia Liberal Party.

He was first elected in the 2009 provincial election. In the 39th Parliament, as a member of the provincial government he worked as Minister of Citizens' Services (June 2009 - June 2010), Minister of Community and Rural Development (June 2010 - October 2010), and Minister of Agriculture (October 2010 - March 2011). On September 5, 2012, he was reappointed to cabinet as Minister of Citizens' Services and Open Government.

In the 2011 BC Liberal Party leadership election he endorsed Kevin Falcon; following Christy Clark's victory, she made Stewart government whip. Stewart also serves as a member of the cabinet priorities and planning committee, as well as the legislative review committee.

He was re-elected in the 2013 provincial election. However, he announced on June 5, 2013 that he will resign his seat so that Clark, who was defeated in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey despite the party's victory provincewide, could contest the seat in a by-election.[1]

Background

Stewart was born and raised in Kelowna, British Columbia. His father, Dick, had moved to the Okanagan in 1911 where he started a nursery growing fruit and shade trees.[2] Dick purchased a West Kelowna vineyard in 1956 which Ben would later incorporate as Quails' Gate Estate Winery.[3] Along with his wife, Ruth, and brother, Tony, they began making their own wine in 1989, with bottling beginning in 1990.[4] In the first couple of years, they were producing about 4,000 cases of wine.[5] Sufficient demand allowed them to expand numerous times so that in 1997 they produced 28,000 cases.[5] A $4 million expansion in 1998 increased their production to 60,000 cases.[5] The winery specialized in pinot noirs.[3] Their tasting room and wine shop was located in an historical building, built by one of the first white settlers in the area,[2] before being replaced with a more modern facility during their 2007 expansion.[4]

Stewart was a proponent of attracting tourism to the Okanagan, as well as promoting exports of British Columbia wine.[6] In 2006, their local Chamber of Commerce awarded Stewart their President's Award for his efforts in promoting Okanagan businesses.[7] The next year Quails' Gate Estate Winery was awarded the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise's regional Family Enterprise of the Year Award.[8] Stewart also served as the marketing chair of the BC Wine Institute, chairman of the Vintners Quality Alliance, and as a member of the UBC Okanagan Advisory Council.[9]

Politics

In 2005, following Member of Parliament Werner Schmidt's announcement that he would not stand for re-election in the next federal election, Stewart campaigned to be the next Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the Kelowna—Lake Country riding. While six other candidates ran, Kelowna city councillor Ron Cannan eventually won the Conservative Party nomination and went on to win the 2006 general election.[10] In 2008, following MLA Rick Thorpe decision not to stand in the next provincial election, and following the re-alignment of electoral boundaries to create the Westside-Kelowna riding, Stewart sought to be the B.C. Liberal Party candidate. Only two candidates stood for the nomination: Stewart and Rick de Jong, brother of then-Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mike de Jong.[11] Stewart won the nomination and was the B.C. Liberal candidate in the 2009 provincial election. He campaigned on an economic platform: that the BC Liberals in power would be more beneficial for the provincial economy than a New Democrat government. Stewart won the election, with 53% of the vote, over the NDP candidate and mental health worker Tish Lakes, who received 29% of the vote and stated "I was never running against Ben Stewart. I was running against the policies of [Liberal leader] Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberals."[12]

As the 39th Parliament began, BC Premier Gordon Campbell immediately promoted Stewart to the Executive Council of British Columbia as the Minister of Citizens' Services and the Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism and the Public Affairs Bureau.[13] As minister, Stewart was immediately thrust into the spotlight as allegations against the Public Affairs Bureau arose concerning the suppression of a report, that should have been released prior to the election, showing a 50% increase in welfare enrollments in 2009. Stewart responded with the statement that the bureau was following protocol regarding the release of information during an election campaign and that the same bureau also withheld a report showing positive job growth during the month of April 2009, a month prior to the election.[14] In December 2009 Stewart also had to defend the Ministry of Housing and Social Development who was under investigation regarding the leak of "mailed sensitive government information to someone in the United States" Stewart stated that "We don't exactly know who this other individual is, but it's believed they could be in the United States."[15]

In his October 25, 2010 cabinet re-shuffling, Campbell promoted Stewart to Minister of Agriculture. Within the first few weeks, he toured the Peace River region, which had suffered a dry summer, and spoke about improving ministry programs like Agristability and production insurance. Shortly afterwards, he was consulted by the federal agricultural minister Gerry Ritz regarding Canada farm-disaster aid.[16] Stewart has spoke favourably about local purchasing and considered re-establishing the "Buy B.C." program.[17] Stewart signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea for regulating aquaculture as a "shared responsibility".[18] In late-2010, a comprehensive review of the Agricultural Land Commission was done and recommendations submitted to Stewart who said he would review the report and discuss with fellow cabinet ministers before making it public.[19]

In the 2011 BC Liberal Party leadership election, following Campbell's resignation, Stewart endorsed Kevin Falcon,[20] noting his approval of Falcon's "support of deregulation for businesses" and his performance as Minister of Health;[21] however, Christy Clark eventually won. Clark did not include Stewart in her first cabinet, but did appoint him Government Whip. He served on the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides, the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives, as well as on the BC Liberals Priorities and Planning Committee and Legislative Review Committee.

Electoral history

B.C. General Election 2009 Westside-Kelowna
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
     NDP Tish Lakes 5,656 29% n/a $26,122
     Conservative Peter Neville 1,772 9% n/a $9,705

n/a $1,075
Total Valid Votes 19,379 100%
Total Rejected Ballots 107 0.55%
Turnout 19,486 47%

References

External links

  • Legislative Assembly of British Columbia - Honourable Ben Stewart
  • British Columbia Liberal Party - Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna)
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