#BCPOLI

B.C. byelection tests NDP’s slim minority as provincial focus on Nanaimo

Byelections in B.C. don’t often favour sitting governments, voters tend to stay home

The slim hold on power Premier John Horgan’s minority NDP government has in British Columbia will be tested Wednesday in a byelection on Vancouver Island where a Liberal win would leave the legislature deadlocked.

Nanaimo has been a New Democrat stronghold, but a Liberal win would give the party 43 seats, tying it with the 43 seats held by the NDP and the Green party, which signed an agreement in 2017 allowing the New Democrats to form a minority government.

Byelections in B.C. don’t often favour sitting governments, voters tend to stay home and the results rarely have the potential to shift the balance of power, but the Nanaimo byelection is anything but traditional, says Prof. David Black, a political communications expert at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.

“This is the perfect byelection,” said Black. “You’ll never see a more interesting, layered, complex and consequential one in my lifetime at the provincial level.”

He said the byelection has all the ingredients of a high-stakes political drama that features solid local candidates, strong provincial issues and a potential game-changing result.

“This may be the best byelection ever,” Black said. “Just to add icing to that very multi-layered cake you have the fact that this byelection, unlike most, could be consequential with respect to the composition of the government and the fate of this particular NDP-Green alliance.”

Six candidates are in the race: former New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, the Green’s Michele Ney, Liberal Tony Harris, Conservative Justin Greenwood, Robin Richardson of the Vancouver Island Party and Libertarian Bill Walker.

READ MORE: Nanaimo byelection candidates outline their priorities

READ MORE: Nanaimo byelection candidates condemn legislature staff expenses

The byelection was called to replace Leonard Krog, the five-term NDP member of the legislature who resigned his seat last year after being elected mayor of the city.

Harris is a well-known local businessman whose family has been in Nanaimo for six generations. He said he wants to focus on local health, education and economic issues rather than get caught up in the provincial numbers game.

“This is Nanaimo’s byelection and Nanaimo’s time,” said Harris. “I feel everybody should be talking about grassroots ideas, solutions to meet the needs of our community. Instead, this election is seeing Nanaimo being hijacked for this provincial cause and I don’t like that.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said voters have the opportunity to pass judgment on the NDP.

“I’ll be very interested in hearing from the people of Nanaimo and their concerns,” said Wilkinson who is spending the days before the byelection campaigning in the city.

Horgan said the NDP has been in Nanaimo telling voters about its child care, health, education and housing initiatives since forming a government after the 2017 election.

WATCH: Nanaimo byelection candidates get their first chance to debate

“We’ve been doing our level best to make our case to the people of Nanaimo that, in the time we’ve had as government, we’ve been delivering for the people and the community,” he said. “I believe the continuation of our government is in the best interest of the community.”

Malcolmson said she is leaving the bigger picture political strategies to NDP officials while she spends her time door knocking and hearing from voters, who she says are telling her the former Liberal government did little to address homelessness and high housing costs in Nanaimo.

Ney, the daughter of former long-time Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney, said she tells voters she has a vision to make Nanaimo a clean economy leader. Electing a fourth Green in the B.C. legislature would give voters more power than electing either Harris or Malcolmson, who will play minor roles for their parties, she argued.

If the Liberals win, it would likely lead to an early election with the Liberals forcing confidence votes in the legislature at every opportunity, Black said. Nanaimo is strong NDP territory, but an election win is not a sure thing, he added.

“But if you were going to have a byelection to decide the fate of your government from the NDP perspective, you’d want it in Nanaimo,” said Black. “They’ve only lost twice in the last 50 years.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RCMP urges community to report crimes as theft from vehicles continues

Ladysmith RCMP confirmed a group of teens were seen trying to break into a vehicle on Thetis drive

Nanaimo-Vancouver ferry sets sail again after delay

B.C. Ferries says Queen of Oak Bay was held in dock earlier due to staffing issues

Graveyard shift being axed at Chemainus sawmill

Western Forest Products move comes on the heels of current union contract’s expiration

LRCA low-income housing project ‘months away’ from on-site work

The project will provide 36 units for three main groups: seniors, families, and disabled people

Three students double recipients of major awards at Chemainus Secondary

Pachet, Ngenda and Simpson the school’s biggest honourees

VIDEO: First Nations, developer call for return and protection of sacred B.C. burial site

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Teen stabbed after end-of-night limo dispute in downtown Vancouver

A young man, 19, is in serious condition following a dispute between two groups

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Most Read