NDP MLAs and their supporters are breathing a sigh of relief after Sheila Malcolmson won a crucial by-election in Nanaimo last night (January 30).
Premier John Horgan congratulated Malcolmson with restraint. “I very much look forward to working with Sheila as our government continues its work to make life better for people in B.C.,” he said in a written statement.
But it’s likely the celebration in NDP corridors was more boisterous than Horgan let on.
The by-election was held to fill a seat left empty by former NDP MLA Leonard Krog, who resigned last year to make a successful run for mayor of Nanaimo.
After Krog stepped down, here’s how the composition of the B.C. legislature stood going into the by-election:
- NDP: 41 seats
- Liberals: 42 seats
- Greens: three seats
The premier’s party actually held less of the legislature than the Liberals. The NDP was only able to govern thanks to agreement with the Green party. That meant that if the Liberals had won the Nanaimo by-election, the NDP’s hold on power in Victoria would have been reduced to a razor-thin margin.
Nanaimo is traditionally fairly safe ground for the NDP. In 2013, it won the riding by 10 points and then won it again in 2017 by 14 points.
But, ahead of this 2019 by-election, just a few days before the vote, the polling firm Mainstreet Research said that this time around, it looked like the Liberals were ahead in Nanaimo. Mainstreet shared the results of a survey that showed 44.7 percent of respondents in Nanaimo supported the Liberals compared to just 32.2 percent who supported the NDP.
With the decline of landlines, polls are less reliable than they once were. But politicians still pay them a lot of attention and there’s no doubt that Mainstreat’s result caused a pang of anxiety within the NDP.
Nanaimo voters’ decision to maintain the status quo was an exciting result for New Democrats in B.C.