#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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Vipers’ Trey Taylor wins with Team West at CJHL Top Prospects game

17-year-old defenseman also makes NHL Central Scouting list of top prospects

Vernon watercolour artist returning to spotlight

Patricia Neil Lawton is holding her first art show in 5 years at Nadine’s Fine Art and Frames, Feb. 8

Cows, cars and more: Coldstream secondary students show off capstone projects

Kalamalka Secondary seniors displayed Career Life Connections capstone projects Jan. 15

Low-level meth dealer gets 6 months jail time in Vernon

BC Supreme Court Justice’s sentence concludes case related to June 2017 offence

Vernon perfect getaway for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, mayor says

Family-oriented community also home to Royal interests; film and helicopter industries

Cariboo Memorial Hospital back to normal after cold weather wreaks havoc

Burst pipes and water leaks cause three different incidents

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

Site of planned Jumbo Valley ski resort to be protected, managed by First Nations

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Huawei exec’s extradition hearing begins in Canada

China’s foreign ministry complained the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights

Prince Harry: ‘Powerful media’ is why he’s stepping away

Prince Harry and Megan have stepped away from their royal commitments

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Most Read