NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson is seeking the provincial NDP nomination in an upcoming byelection to replace departing Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog.
Krog is resigning his seat in Victoria because last Saturday he was elected to be the next mayor of Nanaimo.
In a game of political musical chairs, Malcolmson announced on Wednesday morning that she will resign her seat as a federal MP for the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith if she wins the party’s provincial nomination to stand in the Nanaimo byelection.
Malcolmson is the latest in a line of NDP MPs who have left the federal fold. The soon to be former MP said this has nothing to do with federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s leadership and disappointing recent polling numbers.
“Jagmeet announced my decision this morning to the national caucus and he read from my script me saying, ‘I love the people we work with and I love Jagmeet is our leader and I support him absolutely.’
“The only thing that is pulling me here is the ability right now, in this next year, to implement solutions. whether it’s affordable housing, environmental protections.”
WATCH HERE: MLA Leonard Krog to run for mayor of Nanaimo
Both B.C. Premier John Horgan and Krog have endorsed Malcolmson’s nomination. She is expected to win easily if anyone decides to run against her.
The byelection, however, won’t be so easy. Provincial governments have struggled historically to win byelections, although former premier Christy Clark was able to win a pair of byelections while running the province.
The Greens, Liberals and BC Conservatives are all expected to run candidates in the provincial byelection.
The Nanaimo byelection will be much more important than typical byelections. The balance of power rests on the NDP’s ability to hold seats. If the Liberals win the seat they would have 43 seats, compared to 40 for the NDP and three for the Greens. Independent speaker Darryl Plecas would be required to break ties in the legislature.
“Leonard and I looked at the landscape and both agreed if Sheila was prepared to give up her good work in Ottawa to work with the government in British Columbia she would the ideal candidate,” Horgan said. “When I spoke to Sheila we looked at all the issues that mattered to her and she agreed to seek the nomination. I am very confident she will be successful at that level. And then into the byelection when we call it in the near future.”
Nanaimo has been a NDP stronhold. The party has won the seat by an average of 3,361 votes over the past four elections.
As to when that byelection will be, Horgan said he is hoping to have a new MLA in place by the time the budget is debated in February 2019. That means a 28-day campaign will have to take place before a vote in late January or early February.
Krog has not officially stepped down as the MLA for Nanaimo. He is expected to wait until the end of November and will continue to serve as the MLA without getting paid. He will be sworn in as the Nanaimo mayor in November.
“We are fortunate to have a candidate of quality and compassion step forward to do this,” Krog said. “If you have covered politics for a while, you know what it means in terms of sacrifice and commitment and Sheila has done it and has done it well.”
Malcolmson says she does not expect there to be a federal byelection in Nanaimo. She will not step down until she becomes the official nominee for the NDP. There will be a federal election on Oct. 21, 2019.
“I will resign in order to stand in the election. I can’t keep both positions going and I won’t. We will know more about the dates when the byelection is officially called,” Malcolmson said. “We are confident we can arrange things so that federally, the people in Nanaimo-Ladysmith federally will vote in the next federal election. In the meantime, we can keep the constituency support available in a non-partisan way.”
Green party leader Andrew Weaver says his party will run a candidate. He says he finds the idea of vote splitting a ‘version of voter suppression’. Weaver says he would like to see a high voter turnout where people ‘vote for who they want’.
“We will have a candidate. We have not identified the candidate we will have at this juncture. We have spoken to a lot of people,” said Weaver. “We want the voters of Nanaimo a choice. If they like the vision we campaign on that is their choice. We are not running against the government. We are running as B.C. Greens.”
The B.C. Liberals are also planning on running a candidate. Leader Andrew Wilkinson says the community has been hurt by the province’s speculation tax referring to ‘development work’ leaving the community.
“We expect to have a very strong candidate,” said Wilkinson. “We are seeing a whole slew of NDP taxes coming in next year. The NDP plan is not good for Nanaimo and they can’t take Nanaimo for granted.”