NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson celebrates with Premier John Horgan after winning the byelection in Nanaimo, B.C., on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.
CHAD HIPOLITO /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
NANAIMO — B.C.’s minority NDP government has survived a serious threat to its future, winning a byelection in Nanaimo and preserving its slim hold on power at the legislature.NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson held the riding for her party on Wednesday evening.“Apparently government’s don’t often win byelections,” Premier John Horgan told a cheering crowd at the ballroom where Malcolmson was celebrating her win. “But with a candidate of Sheila’s calibre and the hard work of people right across the city we have returned a New Democrat to Nanaimo and the project continues.”Malcolmson earned 10,165 votes, or 49.45 per cent of the popular vote, compared to B.C. Liberals’ Tony Harris 8,272 votes (40.24 per cent of the popular vote), and Michele Ney’s 1,522 votes (7.40 per cent of the popular vote) — with 108 of 111 ballot boxes counted. The B.C. Conservative candidate Justin Greenwood earned 374 votes. Vancouver Island Party candidate Robin Mark Richardson earned 89 votes. Libertarian candidate Bill Walker earned 77 votes.Preliminary results are posted on the Elections B.C. website here.“Holy smokes what a beautiful crowd,” Malcolmson told the packed ballroom of supporters moments after the results were announced.“We’ve got a lot of work to do, starting tomorrow. We are building affordable housing, we are expanding child care. We are getting an urgent primary care centre.“We are making sure carrying on the project that the NDP has been working on the last year and a half with the Greens.”Malcolmson’s victory was by a considerably smaller margin than New Democrats won in the past, leading to a nervous evening at her campaign headquarters.The win maintains the NDP’s 41 seats in the legislature. Combined with three Green MLAs who support the government through a power-sharing deal, the NDP-Green alliance has 44 seats compared to 42 Liberal MLAs.Had the Liberals won, the legislature would have been deadlocked in a 43-43 tie, forcing independent Speaker Darryl Plecas to break ties and likely leading to an early provincial election.The byelection featured the collapse of the B.C. Green vote to around seven per cent of the popular vote, the party’s worst showing in Nanaimo since 1996.The Greens had peaked in Nanaimo at 20 per cent of the popular vote in 2017. However, with the future of the NDP minority government at stake, it appeared voters re-polarized to split along traditional NDP-Liberal lines.Horgan said he does not believe the Green vote decline will affect the power-sharing arrangement between the two parties.“I’m confident our relationship will continue to be as it has been — rocky some days but at the end of the day we focus on what’s best for people,” said Horgan.
The NDP and Liberals increased their percentage of the popular vote, but the Greens declined sharply.Nanaimo voters stuck with almost half a century of voting trends to maintain what had been a historically safe seat for the NDP. The party won 14 of the last 16 elections here, stretching back to 1963. The NDP’s Leonard Krog, who won by a comfortable margin in 2017, resigned last year to become the city’s mayor.The Liberal’s Harris tried to capitalize on his career as a car salesman and developer, as well as his family’s well-known name. His father, the late Tom Harris, was a local business legend in Nanaimo for his car dealerships and mobile phone stores. At one point in the campaign, Harris channelled the nostalgia of his father’s legacy by using some of his old television ads and jingles in byelection marketing.But the NDP’s recruitment of popular local MP Malcolmson to run provincially had been considered by many to all but lock up the riding for New Democrats.
From left: Sheila Malcolmson (NDP), Tony Harris (Liberal) and Michele Ney (Green) are the candidates in the upcoming byelection for the riding of Nanaimo.
Submitted photos /
The governing party backstopped its candidate with several conveniently timed funding announcements, including Health Minister Adrian Dix visiting Malcolmson’s campaign office to announce Nanaimo was “next” on government’s list of urgent primary care centres, and Education Minister Rob Fleming announcing $18 million in new school funding in a neighbourhood Malcolmson had called for in her campaign.Malcolmson had to sidestep her own government’s unpopular decisions on homelessness, modular housing and a speculation tax that only applies to certain cities (Nanaimo included) that appeared to weigh heavily on the campaign in its final weeks.The provincial government’s lack of public consultation and location of modular housing units designed to house the homeless displaced from a tent city stirred up a fierce public backlash that boiled over during one of the byelection’s highest-profile all-candidates debates. Even Malcolmson was forced to admit her party had bungled the issue.
Supporters celebrate candidate Sheila Malcolmson after winning the byelection in Nanaimo, B.C., on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.
CHAD HIPOLITO /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The government also revealed mid-byelection it was sending out speculation tax notices to 1.3 million British Columbians who own multiple properties in Nanaimo, Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and Kelowna. The move angered residents because it threatened to tax everyone who owns a home — whether they are speculators or not — if they failed to fill out a multi-page online exemption form.The NDP had sought to counter those losses with an appeal that the future of its government was at stake with voters, and a loss would spark an election that could return the B.C. Liberals to power.The NDP seized upon a spending scandal at the legislature, which it blamed on the previous Liberal government. Packaged with a probe into money-laundering, the housing affordability crisis and cost overruns at the Insurance Corp. of B.C., the NDP spun a narrative of 16 years of arrogant and reckless Liberal government it hoped would appeal to frustrated voters.It drove that message home with a last-minute blitz of household flyers on byelection day.Voter interest throughout the byelection appeared high, with turnout in advanced polls surpassing that in the 2017 provincial election and reaching almost 21 per cent of registered firstname.lastname@example.org/robshaw_vansun