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BC Politics
Municipal Politics

Krog’s Nanaimo Win a Risk to NDP Government — But Not Soon

MLA plans to resign seat, opening door for Liberal challenge to NDP minority government.

By Andrew MacLeod 20 Oct 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at

Leonard Krog’s victory in the Nanaimo mayoral race Saturday will send a tremor through B.C. politics — one that may not be fully felt for a year or more.

Krog is the MLA for Nanaimo, an NDP member in a minority government where every vote counts.

Krog confirmed Thursday that he would resign as MLA soon after the municipal election if he won.

That will eventually lead to a byelection that could threaten the NDP’s government.

Early results Saturday showed Krog with 13,207 votes, well ahead of Don Hubbard, who had 4,595.

Both candidates agreed the election was about restoring good governance to the Vancouver Island city. Nanaimo has been plagued by council turmoil and staff turnover.

The timing of his resignation is up to Krog. Before the vote he said it would take a few days to close his MLA constituency office and that he has to consider the needs of his staff. Krog gave up his MLA pay during the campaign, but continued to do constituency work.

The new council will be sworn in Nov. 5, and Krog suggested he’d like to resign before then. “I do have a tight timeline,” he said.

There is nothing to stop him from serving as both MLA and mayor until the next provincial election. There’s precedent — Frank Ney served as Social Credit MLA between 1969 and 1972, when he was also mayor of Nanaimo.

But Krog said he would never consider that option, noting that was a different time.

Both jobs are full-time and there are many possible conflicts between the needs of the city and those of the provincial government, he said. “It’s obvious what has to happen.”

An MLA can resign by announcing his intention to do so in the legislature or with a letter to the Speaker that’s signed by two witnesses.

Krog said he would like to do that in the next couple of weeks.

But there have been discussions with the government about remaining an MLA until the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to be Nov. 29

Once Krog resigns, the Speaker of the legislature advises the Chief Electoral Officer that a byelection is needed. Cabinet then has six months to tell the electoral officer to conduct the byelection.

Governments typically take their time calling byelections. When former premier Christy Clark resigned, Premier John Horgan’s government waited five-and-a-half months before calling the byelection in Kelowna West.

By the time you add 28 days for the campaign and another two weeks to arrive at a final count, it could be more than seven months before the Nanaimo seat is filled. It could therefore be June or July 2019 before Krog’s replacement is sworn in.

Krog said he expects the NDP will win the byelection, noting it has held the seat for most of the last 50 years.

He wouldn’t have run for mayor if he thought his resignation could lead to the government falling, Krog said.

But the stakes are high and the campaign to fill Krog’s seat will likely be fierce.

If the NDP loses the seat to the Liberals there will be 43 Liberal MLAs, 40 New Democrats and three Greens, setting the stage for a tie on votes in the legislature. Breaking ties would be up to Speaker Darryl Plecas, elected as a Liberal but now sitting as an Independent.

But even if the Liberals win the byelection, the government might not be tested in the legislature before February 2020 if the NDP skips the fall session of the legislature, as BC Liberal governments often did.

If the government does fall then and it leads to an election, that vote would be held using the current first-past-the-post electoral system. This fall’s referendum is to determine the system to be used for elections after July 1, 2021.

Depending how things are going for the NDP government a year from now, an early election under the current winner-takes-all system might suit it just fine.

*Update, Oct. 22, 6:40 p.m.: Premier John Horgan said Krog’s election as mayor is great news for the people of Nanaimo. Once Krog resigns, the government will call the byelection promptly, he said. “We will ensure there is a member from Nanaimo in the legislature to debate the budget in February."  [Tyee]

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