NANAIMO, B.C. – The New Democratic Government in British Columbia faces an important test of popularity this month in elections in one of the traditionally safe electoral districts where the results could threaten the power of one Premier John Horgan seat to power.
Voters in Nanaimo, who have chosen New Democrats in 13 of the last 15 provincial elections, are heading for a January 30 vote to replace Leonard Krog, a five-term legislative NDP legislator who resigned from last year's seat after being elected mayor. from the city of Vancouver Island.
Krog's vacancies in the legislature make the tight seats more difficult for the New Democrats, who formed the government in 2017 by reaching a partnership agreement with three members of the Green Party.
Six candidates joined the race: former federal New Democratic MP Sheila Malcolmson, Michele Ney of Green, Liberal Tony Harris, Conservative Justin Greenwood, Robin Richardson of Vancouver Island Party and Bill Walker of Libertarian Bill Walker.
There are 40 New Democrats, three Greens, 42 Liberals, one Independent and one vacancy in the legislature 87 seats.
If the Liberal wins, the legislature will be in a tie 43-43, with Speaker Darryl Plecas – a former Liberal who now sits as an Independent – forced to vote in violation of the tie.
The NDP victory will maintain the status of the minority government.
Mark Blackell, who teaches Liberal Studies at Vancouver Island University Nanaimo, said the city was known as the NDP fortress, but the recognition of Liberal, Harris, and Ney Green names would challenge Malcolmson and the NDP.
"Nanaimo has undergone gradual changes in the past few decades because of a changing economy, which has become more service oriented, and because of people who have moved here, often retired and, recently, young people from Lower Mainland to find more decent housing, "he said.
"While many who have settled, mainly from Alberta, bring more conservative or SM Liberal Party loyalty, there is also growth in the support of green parties, mostly in the younger population. "
Harris, the Liberal candidate, said that each candidate was aware of the high stakes in the election, but also an opportunity for cities that are often ignored to get proper attention.
Nanaimo, which is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island about 110 kilometers northeast of Victoria, is a port city with coal mining and forest roots. More than 90,000 people live in the city.
Harris said, Nanaimo had long been abandoned for political reasons.
"We certainly need to have a more comprehensive vision to enable any party in power to find out how to advance Nanaimo's interests," he said.
He acknowledged that the increase did not receive enough attention from the former Liberal government, but said the NDP also did not pay enough attention to Nanaimo, leaving Krog out of Horgan's cabinet.
"It's just a kind of metaphor for attitudes towards Nanaimo," he said. "We can be ignored. We can be taken for granted and we will keep going. "
But Harris, a sixth generation resident, said he represented a strong city spirit and he wanted to bring a bold change to Nanaimo.
Green candidate Michele Ney said her roots in Nanaimo were as deep as Harris and her vision also saw the city's potential.
He is one of 11 children of the former mayor of Nanaimo, Frank Ney.
Frank Ney has served as mayor of Nanaimo for 21 years. He was also chosen to be a member of B.C. legislature for a term of office.
The bronze statue of Frank Ney stands in downtown Nanaimo and the flamboyant businessman is known to bring thousands of tourists to the city with his famous bath race.
"Apples don't fall far from the tree," Michele Ney said. "I have a vision for Nanaimo. I have this vision where we will be leaders in a clean economy. "
Ney said that he could not escape his father's inheritance and most of his time knocked on the door during the campaign spent in memory of his father.
"He always talks with people no matter who they are," he said. "If there is something called Green in his lifetime or if he is still alive today, he will choose Green."
Malcolmson from the NDP said that his team was well aware of what was at stake for the government, but he was focused on driving.
"Talking to people at the door is where I get my best advice and read my best about the actions of the government of John Horgan so far," he said. "This is what you hear on the door step."
Malcolmson, who resigned from the federal seat as member of parliament Nanaimo to run provocatively, said he heard from people who were worried about health care, child care and education.
"On the doorstep, I say it's also a feeling of urgency about how Liberals let housing prices become so out of control. How they let the homeless crisis soar in Nanaimo," said Malcolmson who lives on nearby Gabriola Island.
Richardson, an economist and former Conservative MP from Ontario when Joe Clark became prime minister, said he wanted Vancouver Island to become Canada's 11th province.
"We will be 100 times better as a province than region," said the candidate who ran for the Vancouver Island Party.
He also said if he won the election, he would hold the balance of power in the legislature.
Walker, Libertarian, said he campaigned for individual rights and freedom and "freedom from government oppression."
Conservative candidates cannot be contacted for comment.