NANAIMO —B.C. Premier John Horgan was all smiles as he kicked off the NDP’s byelection campaign on Saturday, but his message on the need to succeed was sober.
“It is pivotal, it is critical, that we succeed,” he said. “We need to win Nanaimo to continue the government. It’s that simple.”
In the B.C. legislature, the NDP and Greens have a combined 44 seats and the Liberals have 42.
A Liberal win in the byelection would leave the B.C. legislature in a 43-43 deadlock, with Speaker and Independent MLA Darryl Plecas called to cast tie-breaking votes — a situation that could lead to a general election.
The B.C. NDP’s future is pinned on New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson, whose resignation as MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith took effect on Jan. 2.
Malcolmson said her election campaign has been “buzzing” and signs have been up since Wednesday when the premier called the Jan. 30 byelection.
The provincial seat had been held by longtime NDP MLA Leonard Krog, who stepped down after he was elected mayor of Nanaimo in October.
Also running are Liberal Tony Harris, Green Party candidate Michele Ney, and Robin Richardson of the Vancouver Island Party. Candidates have until Wednesday to file nomination papers.
The NDP has won 13 of the past 15 elections in the Nanaimo riding.
“Nanaimo, apparently, it is the safest seat in the universe, but no seats are safe unless you work hard,” Horgan said.
The premier recalled his first experience as an election day organizer in Oshawa, Ont. He loaded 12 voters into his 1967 Buick Special Deluxe on the way to the polls. “And that’s what we have to keep in mind as we go through the next 25 days,” Horgan told placard-waving and cheering supporters and donors.
Horgan, Malcolmson and Krog all flogged the theme that the B.C. NDP government has done more in the past year and a half for the province’s economy, employment rate, environment and health and child care than the B.C. Liberals did in 16 years as government.
Malcolmson talked of the B.C. NDP’s opposition to increased oil-tanker traffic from the proposed twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
“We’re so proud of the work the B.C. NDP has done to stand up and protect our coast, and I’m determined to carry that work on,” said Malcolmson, who also committed to do more on affordable housing in Nanaimo.
She also applauded the B.C. NDP for rescinding laws introduced by the B.C. Liberals that allowed health sector contracts to be ripped up and staff fired en masse only to be hired back at lower wages.
“We get to choose whether we go back to 16 years of cutting costs and making life expensive for people or whether we get to carry on this co-operative, progressive government that’s getting results for the people that matter,” she said.
Krog said he’s confident the NDP will win. “For one obvious reason: This NDP government has done all the positive things the B.C. Liberals could have done if they wanted to and deliberately chose not to.”
Horgan called supporters to band together and not let the clock roll back.
“Let’s reject that,” he said. “Let’s do that resoundingly here in Nanaimo and on the 30th of January let’s fill up those ’67 Buicks with as many people as we can and get them to the polls and return a New Democrat to Victoria.”