A by-election. Ho hum. How boring. How uninteresting.
But wait! What if I told you that the upcoming by-election in Nanaimo carries the entire fate of the B.C. government in its hands? Would you be interested then?
For that is the case, friends.
On January 30, Nanaimo voters will choose a new MLA, because the former MLA, the NDP’s Leonard Krog, decided he’d rather be Mayor of Nanaimo than an MLA. This, as you can imagine, made him an unpopular guest at NDP holiday gatherings.
For with Krog leaving, the Nanaimo seat opens up, and so do the possibilities of a deadlocked Legislature — and an early election — should the BC Liberals grab the win.
If the Nanaimo riding goes BC Liberal, even the agreement with the Green Party will not save the NDP. Currently, the NDP have 40 seats, the BC Liberals have 42, and the Greens have three. There is one Independent, the embattled Speaker, Darryl Plecas. And there is one vacant seat, in Nanaimo.
So if Nanaimo goes to the BC Liberals, they would have 43 seats, as would the NDP Green alliance. Deadlock. The Speaker would have to break ties, and that’s not going to be a situation that has any legs at all. Especially given the current troubles of the Speaker.
Speaking of Plecas, some of his constituents are mounting a recall campaign against him, and if that’s successful, who knows what happens.
The Nanaimo seat has been fairly safe for the NDP traditionally. In the 2017 election, Krog and the NDP took over 46 per cent of the vote, and won by about 3800 votes over the BC Liberal challenger.
But… and this is a big but, by-elections don’t always go the way of general elections. In by-elections, voters often seek to spank/punish/send a message to the ruling party by voting against them. If voters seek to send a message to John Horgan, that message will be ‘let’s have an election’. That’s not something Mr. Horgan is too keen on, likely.
And it is going to come down to BC Liberal versus NDP in Nanaimo, because the Greens are putting forward a candidate and so, likely, are the BC Conservatives. Each of those parties will syphon off some votes from NDP/BC Liberal. In a riding that has gone NDP fairly consistently, that may hurt the BC Liberals more. And just for fun there are also candidates for the Vancouver Island Party and a Libertarian.
The NDP are already reeling from what some consider a severe slap from the voters — the No vote on the pro-rep referendum. With over 60 per cent of voters giving that an absolute nyet, the NDP may feel a little bruised, as they campaigned for the Yes side.
However, other pundits say that the NDP’s support for the Yes side was tepid at best, and that they only held the referendum to appease their Green allies, and didn’t really have a lot of interest in changing the electoral system.
In any event, the polling organization Angus Reid has Premier Horgan’s approval rating at 42 per cent in December. That’s not as good as earlier in the year — he was at a high of 52 per cent in March of last year — but not terrible.
So, say the NDP holds Nanaimo, but then Plecas is actually recalled or has to resign. The constituency, Abbotsford South, elected Plecas as a BC Liberal. He then went Independent when he took the Speaker’s role, but an election in that riding is no slam dunk for the NDP.
So not only does the NDP have to hold Nanaimo, they may have to win in a riding mightily annoyed with the guy who struck a deal with the NDP to become Speaker.
It’s not a great scenario for the NDP. Not great at all.