British Columbia

From Nanaimo MLA to mayor? Leonard Krog's decision could have big ramifications for local, provincial politics

It's rare that an announcement by a backbench MLA carries such intrigue.

The city has been mired in controversy for years, but Krog's resignation could cause issues for the NDP

Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog has announced his candidacy for the city's top job. (NDP)

Longtime NDP MLA Leonard Krog is set to make an announcement that could shake up both Nanaimo's city hall and Victoria's provincial legislature.

Krog will talk about his future plans at a Nanaimo hotel Wednesday night after weeks of speculation on his political future. 

Many believe he'll announce a run for mayor of Nanaimo,  a city he has represented as an MLA for the last 13 years.

"He's a very popular person in town. He seems to cross party lines with a lot of the work he does in the community, and he stands to get a lot of support," said Kim Smythe, the president of the city's Chamber of Commerce. 

Smythe said Krog is one of many testing the political waters in Nanaimo months earlier than municipal candidates normally do.

"I've never seen this community get its candidates lining up six months in advance of the actual election," he said.

"I think there's a lot of pent-up interest because of the record of this current administration. A lot of people have been looking forward to reconsidering their choices."

City wracked by lawsuits; infighting

For the past two years, Nanaimo's city hall has been wracked by infighting, including a lawsuit filed by the city against Mayor Bill McKay, investigations by RCMP and special prosecutors, and the departures of over three dozen city staff. 

"We just want good governance in Nanaimo, and we want it to be really boring," said Tom Weinreich, who retired as manager of building inspections last year.

"We don't want to be the national news ... we just want good steady governance that we're not embarrassed about. People are ashamed right now."

Weinreich is part of Our Nanaimo, a grassroots group dedicated to changing the political culture in the city, British Columbia's eighth largest. He believes Krog would be a solid candidate. 

"We've had a lot of trouble with Nanaimo council the last four years, and I think Leonard Krog would be a good candidate for mayor and would probably do quite a bit to clean up [council] and provide good, steady leadership."

McKay hasn't said whether he would seek re-election and former Island Health Authority chair Don Hubbard has also announced a run for mayor. 

Balance of provincial power at stake?

Krog's announcement is garnering attention outside the city's boundaries because of the current makeup of B.C.'s legislature.

With the NDP and Green Party at a combined 44 MLAs, a B.C. Liberal party win in a Nanaimo byelection would give them the votes to effectively block any legislation by the government and greatly increase the chances of an early provincial election. 

"We usually don't have governments that are this tight," said University of Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford, who said Krog may be considering a move because he was not included in the government's first cabinet. 

"This is really his time to do it if he wants to make a move. We have seen in B.C. and other provinces, people go from legislatures to be mayor, because they have more power and can do real things."

But the main riding for the city of Nanaimo has voted NDP in 13 of the last 15 elections and Krog could choose whether to resign immediately, or only if he became mayor — and even then, the government could wait up to six months to call a byelection.

Telford said it would be an uphill battle for any Liberal to get elected. 

"It would have to be a very strong candidate, and more importantly, it would have to be a split vote [with the Greens]," he said.

"Even though there's a general tendency for government's to lose byelections, I think this government is relatively new and popular ... one would anticipate the NDP would retain the seat, unless there's vote-splitting with a strong Green candidate."  

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.