Leonard Krog, elected Nanaimo mayor, reflects on when to resign as MLA

Leonard Krog has not yet decided when he will resign as NDP MLA for Nanaimo after storming to victory with 20,000-plus votes in the race for mayor

“Do I remain on unpaid leave and available for the House (in the provincial legislature) until the end of November or when do I officially resign my seat? 

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“Over the next few days I’ll obviously have discussions with the (NDP) whip and see where the leg (legislature) is at and what not,” he said.

> More election coverage at timescolonist.com/elections

A whip in a political party is responsible for making sure elected officials fill their seats when the house is in session, particularly when there is a crucial vote.

Michael Prince, UVic Lansdowne professor of social policy, said that although Premier John Horgan would have up to six months to call a byelection, he expects that would be expedited, given that the NDP is in power with a minority government. He predicts the byelection will happen in January, or early February at the latest. “I would think that he (Horgan) would want to have a new NDP MLA in the House for the February budget.”

The NDP, with 41 seats, is serving as government because it has the support of the Green party, which has three seats. The Liberal party has 42 seats.

Those close numbers ensure that rival parties will be putting a lot of effort into the byelection.

Despite the close numbers in the B.C. legislature, five-time MLA Krog is confident that the NDP will hold onto Nanaimo. Prince agrees that it is likely a safe seat.

In the meantime, Krog is continuing constituency work. He took unpaid leave starting Sept. 22 to run in the municipal election.

Nanaimo’s new council will be sworn in on Nov. 5.

Krog said Sunday, “I have already had a chat with (Nanaimo Mayor) Bill McKay this morning and we are going to have a much longer this week to talk about the transition and things of that nature.” McKay did not run for mayor again.

Krog pulled in 20,040 votes, winning 72.9 per cent of the vote for the mayor’s race.

McKay, who presided over a turbulent city hall marked by near-constant battles, said, he has one piece of advice for incoming council members: “Leave your egos at the door and deal with the book of business and deal with the agenda.”

He said the new council has some strong personalities.

As well, “I believe that the council has taken a swing to the left but that is not a bad thing. Diversity is good.”

A total of 27,475 votes were cast out of 68,093 eligible voters, meaning the turnout was 40.35%. That is up from a 34.1 per cent turnout in the 2014 election.

Councillors Sheryl Armstrong and Ian Thorpe were among four sitting council members who ran again and were re-elected. Councillors Gord Fuller and Jerry Hong were defeated.

Krog praised all members of the incoming council, saying, “There are no private agendas here. There are no people who are feeling embittered or upset about something. These are people who want to work together and I know that they are going to work together.”

The rest of council is made up of newcomers.

Erin Hemmens, coroner, topped the polls for councillor with 15,937 votes. Her campaign issues included addressing homelessness in Nanaimo, encouraging more housing, improving local transportation, and supporting business.

Armstrong was second with 15,817 votes. She was first elected to council in summer 2017 in a byelection. She attributes her success partly to updating her Facebook page monthly, listing controversial decisions and outlining her reasons for voting a particular way. A former RCMP officer, Armstrong figures that helped get her elected because it indicated she would not be easily intimidated, given council’s combative reputation.

She welcomes the election results. “This group is going to work so well together.” Council members will be respectful when they disagree, she said.

Don Bonner, a businessman who was one of the founders of the community group Our Nanaimo, was elected with 9,674 votes. Both Bonner and Armstrong want to see civic staff numbers rebuilt again after the city lost more than 30 in recent years. The first thing council should do is hire a permanent chief administrative officer, he said.

Bonner said he is confident that the new council will be able to attract new business and new residents to the city.

Also elected is Ben Geselbracht, a former clinical counsellor who owns Yeoman Tree Service, which provides jobs for people facing barriers to the work force. He pulled in 15,136 votes.

Tyler Brown, an urban planner, earned 14,935 votes. Florist Jim Turley was elected with 11,649 votes. And Zeni Maartman, a B.C. Automobile Association manager, received 8,558 votes.

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