Polling shocker: NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson has narrow lead over B.C. Liberal Tony Harris in Nanaimo

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      A new poll suggests that an upcoming by-election race is a lot closer than most observers might expect.

      Mainstreet Research's latest survey reports that NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson has the support of 39.2 percent of "decided and leaning" voters in the supposedly safe NDP seat.

      The B.C. Liberal candidate, Tony Harris, is at 38.2 percent.

      The polling company has described this as a "dead heat".

      Mainstreet surveyed 594 respondents and says the poll is accurate, plus or minus 4.02 percent, 19 times out of 20.

      Malcolmson is a first-term NDP MP in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and is the party's critic for women's equality. The Gabriola Island resident was an energy policy analyst and formerly chaired the Islands Trust Council. She's been an outspoken opponent of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

      Sheila Malcolmson is hoping to replace Leonard Krog as the NDP MLA for Nanaimo.

      Harris is a well-known local businessman and his family owns the Harris Auto Group. His father Tom was a popular philanthropist who died last year after he fell off a friend's boat by San Juan Island.

      The B.C. Greens previously announced that they were seeking applicants to run in Nanaimo. The closing date for anyone interested in running for the party was on November 16.

      The Nanaimo seat will soon be vacated by recently elected Nanaimo mayor Leonard Krog, who held it for the NDP since 2005.

      Had Premier John Horgan appointed Krog to cabinet, he likely wouldn't have sought the mayoralty. Krog was the long-time critic for the attorney general while in opposition. But after the NDP formed government, Horgan installed Vancouver–Point Grey NDP MLA David Eby in this position.

      The B.C. Liberals have only won the seat once—in the 2001 Gordon Campbell landslide—when Mike Hunter was elected. In 1969, former mayor Frank Ney was elected in Nanaimo for the Social Credit party.

      Earlier this month, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson introduced Tony Harris as the party's candidate in Nanaimo.

      The NDP holds 41 seats in the B.C. legislature. It controls the government thanks to a confidence and supply agreement with the B.C. Greens, who hold three seats.

      The B.C. Liberals have 42 seats. The speaker of the legislature, Darryl Plecas, was elected as a B.C. Liberal but he's now an independent.