A New Democrat member of the British Columbia legislature is running for the mayor’s job in Nanaimo, potentially upsetting the delicate balance of power for the provincial government.
If Leonard Krog is elected in October, the NDP and Green alliance reduces to 43 seats, while the B.C. Liberals have 42. Speaker Darryl Plecas sits as an Independent, after being booted from the Liberal caucus last year.
The departure of an NDP member of the legislature could have significant implications for the New Democrats which, with help from three members of the Green party, hold a razor-thin majority in the legislature.
The Nanaimo riding has traditionally been a New Democrat stronghold, going to the NDP in 12 of the last 14 elections. But if the Liberals were to win a byelection there, it would give them 43 seats, the same number as the New Democrats and Greens together.
Krog, who made his mayoral run official Wednesday night, says a chorus of voices calling on him to help “fix” his hometown was simply too loud to ignore.
In a rousing speech to more than 200 people at a hotel in Nanaimo, Krog said in his more than 30 years living in the city he has never seen it suffer through what it has under the term of this current council.
“If the city was in great shape I wouldn’t even have thought about doing it,” he said.
“But when you have all those people asking you and your city is in terrible shape and people want you to come and lead the charge to fix it, you’ve got a choice to make…. I’m taking up the challenge.”
As for his seat in the legislature, Krog said he will continue to serve as MLA throughout the summer and during the municipal campaign. However, he made clear he will stop taking a government paycheque once the campaign officially begins in September, and he would resign his seat “quite quickly” if his mayoral bid is successful.
He said he has no concerns for his party in a byelection with the potential to topple the tenuous minority government.
“I don’t it’s going to happen. I won this seat by 3,800 votes last time and that is a big margin,” he said.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said Krog believes he is the best man for the job of Nanaimo mayor.
Speaking before Krog’s announcement on Wednesday, Horgan said he knows that Krog has thought “long and hard” about running for the job after being overwhelmed by community members who are urging him to bring stability to a council that has been beset with infighting.
“There’s been a long-standing challenge in the city and Leonard believes — and many, many, many people believe — that he is the best person to address that,” Horgan said during a news conference in Grand Forks, B.C.
“I wish him all the best and I know that he’ll be continuing his duties as MLA to continue to represent the citizens of Nanaimo until the election period begins in the fall.”
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson thanked Krog for his service to B.C. and wished him the best in his run for mayor.
“Mr. Krog and Premier Horgan know what’s at stake. With an unstable minority government propped up by three Green MLAs in the legislature, the implications of this byelection are significant for the entire province,” Wilkinson said in a statement.
“We look forward to offering the voters of Nanaimo a compelling choice in the byelection, whenever it comes.”
The nomination period for B.C.’s general local elections is from Sept. 4 to Sept. 14, and the campaign runs from Sept. 22 until the general voting day on Oct. 20.
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