The BC Green Party has officially launched its campaign in the critical Nanaimo byelection — one that could decide the fate of the provincial government.
Former teacher Michele Ney, daughter of long time Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney, kicked off her run at a campaign event on Sunday.
“Look what I’m doing today. I can’t imagine in all of my life that I would be doing this,” she said to laughter from supporters.
Ney leaned on her history as an educator to take a few shots at the former BC Liberal government, which she said critically underfunded B.C.’s education system.
And she said Nanaimo, poised between Victoria and Vancouver, was perfectly situated to kick start B.C.’s green jobs industry.
WATCH: B.C. premier John Horgan launches Nanaimo byelection campaign
Ney also rejected the perception that the Greens were an underdog in a fight that many see as a Liberal-NDP grudge match.
“To my bones, Green is going to be in Nanaimo,” she said. “You wait. January 30, the people’s voice will be heard.”
By selecting the daughter of a popular former mayor, the Greens have signaled they are serious about contending in the race.
But the risk to the Greens’ power-sharing deal with the NDP is real, should the two parties play spoiler to one another.
A BC Liberal win would deadlock the legislature at 43 seats for the Liberals and 43 for the NDP-Greens. That would leave Speaker Daryl Plecas to break ties, including on confidence votes, and that could trigger an election.
The BC Liberals aren’t wasting the opportunity, and have selected Tony Harris, son of late Nanaimo businessman Tom Harris, to bear their standard.
Harris has made his campaign all about local representation, arguing that Nanaimo voters have been taken for granted.
“Nanaimo has been overlooked for 50 years,” he said.
“Of course we’ve had investment and attention for time to time, but whoever the government of the day is just hasn’t had Nanamio’s best interest at heart all of the time, and it’s because Nanaimo has always voted the same way.”
Harris is pledging to fight for a Nanaimo-Vancouver passenger ferry, arguing the city has now grown enough to support a service like the failed Harbourlynx fast ferry service.
The NDP, who have traditionally dominated Nanaimo politics, launched their campaign on Saturday, with Premier John Horgan supporting candidate and former MP Sheila Malcolmson.
Malcolmson told supporters on Saturday that the party takes no seats for granted, and is aware that the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“The whole eyes of the whole province are all focused on Nanaimo and that lends a special intensity to the campaign,” said Malcolmson.
The Jan. 30 byelection is being held to replace former NDP MLA Leonard Krog, who was elected mayor of Nanaimo in the Oct. 20 municipal elections.