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Premier Clark says "wait and see" for byelection contest

Never one to shy away from a fight, a feisty Joe Trasolini announced his candidacy Wednesday for the vacant Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA's job.

Never one to shy away from a fight, a feisty Joe Trasolini announced his candidacy Wednesday for the vacant Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA's job.

The outgoing Port Moody mayor surprised many when he announced he would carry the banner for the NDP against a local BC Liberal juggernaut whose candidates have carried the vote in the region at least since 1996, when it was held by New Democrat Barbara Copping.

Less than 24 hours after his last meeting as mayor, Trasolini joined NDP leader Adrian Dix in the galleria at PoMo city hall and promised to live up to his 15-year record as an open and accessible politician who was supportive of youth, seniors and the environment and also ran a tight fiscal ship.

"I will be able to transfer that, if I'm elected, to the provincial stage," he said.

Dix said the former mayor and small businessman will strengthen the NDP team if elected in a byelection next spring. "He understands business, he understands community, he understands working people," Dix said.

When asked why he chose the NDP over the governing BC Liberals, with whom he appeared to sympathize with over the years, Trasolini told media and supporters that he liked Dix's "inclusive" style of leadership and the party's willingness to "listen" but said he has been non-partisan as mayor to better represent the city.

"I've taken on anyone who would drag Port Moody down," he said.

Trasolini admitted he's a long-shot in this fight and will start working on his campaign once the new city council is inaugurated and his candidacy is acclaimed by the riding association in December.

"I think the people of this riding will give me a chance," he said, "but make no mistake: I am the underdog."

Without a BC Liberal candidate at the ready, Trasolini's immediate foe is an old friend, Premier Christy Clark, who represented the region between 1996 and 2005 as MLA for Port Moody-Westwood and Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain, when Trasolini was a councillor and, then, mayor.

Outside the Legislature, Clark told Black Press Trasolini's jump to the NDP isn't a defection from her party because the former mayor hasn't been a BC Liberal for a long time.

As for Trasolini's statement that the BC Liberals have drifted too far to the right and lost their roots, Clark said, "He's been saying that for 10 years now. Joe hasn't been a BC Liberal for a long time. Frankly, I was surprised when he expressed some interest in running for the BC Liberals when he did."

She said Trasolini had talked to others in her party about the nomination and "I guess he was talking to both parties at the same time."

Trasolini's candidacy in the riding vacated by Iain Black, who took the post of CEO and president of the Vancouver Board of Trade in October, will elevate the byelection to more of an equal contest with whomever is nominated to run for the Liberals, Clark conceded. But she said she didn't expect Port Moody voters will want to turn black the clock to the days of high personal and business taxes.

However, she was reluctant to say when she would call a byelection, or who would run in the Port Moody-Coquitlam riding. "Wait and see. Wait and see," she told reporters.

Clark has until April 7 to call a byelection.

A spokesperson for the BC Liberal Party said it's up to an individual to file and announce his decision to seek the nomination. Jehn Benoit said she doesn't know of anyone who has publicly declared yet and said it will be up to an election readiness committee to decide when to set the nomination date.

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- with files from Janis Warren and Tom Fletcher