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Expected loss of long-time NDP MLA could threaten B.C.’s minority government

Long-time New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog. (2009 File Photo).

Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail

Overlooked for cabinet, long-time NDP MLA Leonard Krog is expected to announce on Wednesday evening his intent to run in the Nanaimo mayoralty race this fall and some of his most vocal supporters are from the opposition Liberal benches.

BC Liberal supporters are salivating over the prospect of the minority NDP government falling if they can capture Mr. Krog’s current seat in the riding of Nanaimo. It’s not a sure bet, as the riding is solid NDP territory and even an NDP loss to the Liberals wouldn’t automatically trigger another B.C. election.

But Mr. Krog, if he does leave the legislature, is offering the Liberals a chance to shorten the lifespan of the current government.

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Liberal MLA Mike Bernier, responding to news on the weekend that Mr. Krog was mulling a mayoralty bid, said his NDP rival “is a class act and would be missed in the [legislature], but he would be a huge help to City Hall, too.”

Jordan Bateman, a veteran critic of the NDP, also tweeted out his admiration for Mr. Krog: “While I’m admittedly coloured by an obvious desire to see the ND-Green government defeated, I’ll say this: Nanaimo does desperately need a new city hall culture – and Len Krog is probably the guy in town best equipped to fix that mess.”

Mr. Krog has informed party officials he is mulling a run for the mayor’s job this fall. He did not return calls, but on Monday he tweeted a statement promising answers at a special event he is hosting at a Nanaimo hotel: “I want to reach out and thank everyone for their encouragement and kind words and questions. I have nothing to announce at this time. Please stay tuned and join me on Wednesday evening.”

Mr. Krog has won five elections under the NDP flag, but did not make it onto the cabinet benches when the NDP formed government last summer.

The BC Liberals currently hold 42 seats in B.C.’s legislature, while the NDP have 41 and govern in an alliance with the Green’s three MLAs. There is one Independent, Darryl Plecas, who left the Liberal party after he agreed to sit in the Speaker’s chair. If the Liberals can pick up a seat, that would leave Mr. Plecas in the difficult position of voting to break ties in a deadlocked House.

Glen Sanford, head of communications for the NDP, said Mr. Krog is being wooed to run for the mayor’s job by supporters who want him to tackle turmoil at City Hall. “They see Leonard as someone who can step in and solve a huge problem.”

Since last year, special prosecutors have twice been appointed to deal with conflicts between Nanaimo’s top elected officials and senior administrators. The city’s Chief Administrative Officer is currently subject to a peace bond after being arrested at City Hall in January over an incident involving alleged threats.

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Mr. Sanford said his party is not alarmed at the prospect of losing the seat to the Liberals. “In the event there is a by-election, I’m confident that Nanaimo will remain a New Democrat seat,” he said.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said in an interview that there are a number of hurdles to clear before any seats might shuffle in the legislature – even if Mr. Krog runs, he might not give up his seat unless he wins what is expected to be a strongly contested race.

But Mr. Weaver said his party will “absolutely” field a candidate if there is a by-election. “We will have a very strong candidate.”

Mr. Krog could hold onto his legislature seat until the voters in Nanaimo have had their say in the Oct. 20 municipal elections, but it would be unusual. NDP MLA Gregor Robertson quit his seat to run for mayor of Vancouver in 2008. NDP MLA Jenny Kwan quit in 2015 to seek a federal seat.

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