The BC NDP has held on to a seat in Nanaimo, and its narrow lead in the legislature, with a victory in Wednesday night’s byelection.
Former MP Sheila Malcolmson won the seat by a comfortable margin, with 10,538 votes accounting for 49.22 per cent of the vote.
“Apparently governments don’t usually win byelections,” Premier John Horgan told a cheering crowd, noting the historical trend that regularly delivers byelections to opposition parties.
“But with a candidate of Sheila’s calibre and the hard work of people in this room and right across the city we have returned a New Democrat to Nanaimo, the project continues, the government is on its way.”
Sheila Malcolmson talks to Global News
“We have a lot of work to do. We are building affordable housing, we are expanding child care. We are getting an urgent primary care centre, more doctors for people,” Malcolmson said.
“We are standing up and protecting the coast, we are defending against the risk of expanded oil tankers. We are protecting from oil spills and we are protecting jobs doing it.
“We are going to make sure that prosperity is shared. We have the strongest jobs record, we have the strongest economy in the country right now, but we have to make sure that is shared by everybody, that is our prime directive.”
Malcolmson came out on top of BC Liberal candidate Tony Harris, who managed 8,665 votes accounting for 40.47 per cent of the vote.
WATCH: Sheila Malcolmson gives victory speech
Harris said he was at peace with the decision, and would continue to fight for Nanaimo’s interests.
“I jumped into this race because I wanted to ensure that this byelection was bout Nanaimo, and the other parties made it a provincial issue and I was focused on keeping it a Nanaimo-focused campaign that raised the profile of our city. We talked about aspirational, forward-looking ideas, whether it was with healthcare or a university or a port,” he said.
“Those are the things we should be fighting for.”
LISTEN: The BC NDP have retained their slender hold on power as their candidate easily won last night’s provincial byelection in Nanaimo. It means the NDP-Green alliance still controls 44 seats in the legislature to the 42 seats held by the BC Liberals .
Nonetheless, despite failing to win the seat, Wednesday’s result was an improvement for the Liberals over the 2017 election, when they managed just 32.5 per cent of the vote.
The BC Greens finished with just seven per cent or so of the vote, a huge disappointment for a party that had hoped to contend as an equal in the race.
The byelection was the most anticipated in B.C. history because of the stakes for the provincial government.
By winning the seat, the NDP now has 41 seats in the provincial legislature. With the support of the Greens, the government is expected to be able to continue to pass confidence motions and legislation.
WATCH: Tony Harris of the BC Liberals on his election loss
The NDP’s Leonard Krog previously held the seat. Krog stepped down after winning Nanaimo’s mayoral race in October.
Malcolmson said the message she heard the most at the door was that voters were happy with what the NDP government has been doing, especially when it comes to affordability and health care investments.
“People here are focused on local issues,” Malcolmson said.
WATCH: BC Green Party on election night loss
“I am very focused on carrying on what the NDP has done provincially.
“On the doorsteps people are concerned about bread and butter issues. People have a lot of stories of elders being treated badly, overcrowding, people getting jammed up in the emergency rooms and we have been able to chip away at that.”
One of the other factors in the byelection has been the release of the Plecas Report.
The BC Liberals were tied more closely to the scandal than the NDP because of mentions in the Plecas Report of meetings that clerk Craig James took with high-profile Liberals.
“The more we learn about the culture of entitlement under the Liberals, the more I am hearing from people how disgusted they are by it,” Malcolmson said.
Malcolmson will officially be sworn in as an MLA after the results of the election are certified.
She is expected to be in the legislature by the time the Speech from the Throne is read on Feb. 12.
WATCH: Global News calls the Nanaimo byelection for the NDP