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Premier John Horgan promises by-election in Nanaimo before budget debate

Nanaimo mayor elect Leonard Krog must soon resign his seat in the B.C. Legislature.
Nanaimo mayor elect Leonard Krog must soon resign his seat in the B.C. Legislature. Richard Zussman/Global News

Premier John Horgan is expected to call a by-election in British Columbia much sooner than the six months he is allowed under the rules. In a rare hallway scrum, Horgan told reporters that he expects to meet with NDP MLA and Nanaimo mayor-elect Leonard Krog this week in Victoria.

“We will ensure there is a member from Nanaimo in the legislature to debate the budget in February,” Horgan said. “On his resignation — that is up to him. We are talking to him about that. He has got a lot on his plate right now.”

READ MORE: Nanaimo mayoral candidates have their say on cleaning up city hall, homelessness

Krog has said he will resign as an MLA before he is sworn in as the next mayor of Nanaimo in November. It is still not clear which day he will officially step down.

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In order to get an MLA in the legislature before the budget debate, the by-election would have to be at some point in early February or earlier. The campaign will run 28 days and Elections BC will need some time to confirm the results before the budget on Feb. 19.

The seat is a crucial piece of the puzzle that is keeping the NDP in power with the support of the Green Party. If the Liberals are able to win the upcoming by-election the party would have 43 seats, compared to 40 for the NDP and three for the Greens.

READ MORE: Long-time MLA Leonard Krog launches bid to become mayor of Nanaimo

Independent speaker Darryl Plecas would be required to break any ties in the legislature. There would also be tremendous pressure on MLAs to be in Victoria for votes even if they are sick or injured.

Horgan is optimistic his party will be able to hold on to the seat.

“I know the people of Nanaimo voted overwhelmingly for Leonard Krog to be their mayor. And they have voted overwhelmingly for Leonard to be their MLA for many, many campaigns.”

WATCH HERE: MLA Leonard Krog to run for mayor of Nanaimo

MLA Leonard Krog to run for mayor of Nanaimo
MLA Leonard Krog to run for mayor of Nanaimo

Krog tallied 12,746 votes in last provincial election. Liberal candidate Paris Gaudet was second with 8,912 votes and the Green Kathleen Harris got 5,454 votes.

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Krog was clear during the campaign that he didn’t feel “overly utilized” in Horgan’s government after being left out of cabinet. But he said he did not run for mayor in order to hurt the government of Horgan.

WATCH HERE: NDP MLA announces shift to local politics

NDP MLA announces shift to local politics
NDP MLA announces shift to local politics

“I wouldn’t have done this if I really thought it was going to jeopardize the provincial government and even if the NDP lost this seat we would be right back where we were when the Lieutenant Governor asked John to form government,” Krog said. “I don’t think there is any desire to threaten this government.”

Horgan and Krog have not spoken since Saturday but they have been texting back and forth. The NDP is planning a celebration for Krog as he moves on from provincial politics.

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“It is great news for the people of Nanaimo. Clearly a mandate for change. Leonard will lead that change,” Horgan said.