Gabriola’s Sheila Malcolmson wins Nanaimo byelection

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, February 13 2019

Sheila Malcolmson, resident of Gabriola Island and former Member of Parliament for this riding, is now the MLA for Nanaimo. She is expected to be sworn in as MLA this week.

Malcolmson, running for the BC NDP, won in the by-election which culminated on January 30, beating out five other candidates.

“It’s one more ferry advocate in the caucus,” she said, speaking to the Sounder the week after the win.”

Malcolmson joins the Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in being a sitting MLA who lives in a ferry dependent community, though Malcolmson does not represent Gabriola, that duty remains with MLA Doug Routley, as Gabriola is in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding.

Malcolmson said she will be sitting in the seat of her predecessor, Leonard Krog.

“A great honour. Right beside me will be Sonia Furstenau [Green Party MLA]. I worked with both Sonia and Adam Olsen [Green Party] in local government and I look forward to picking up that work again.”

Malcolmson is only the second woman to represent Nanaimo as an MLA. Jan Pullinger was the MLA for Nanaimo from 1989 to 1991; she was MLA from 1991 to 2001 for the riding of Cowichan-Ladysmith, and now resides on Gabriola.

Malcolmson said Pullinger is “a mentor of mine - she encouraged me strongly to take up this provincial role, she was with me on provincial night.”

Pullinger said, “I am thrilled to see Sheila elected as MLA for Nanaimo. She is capable and hardworking and, as part of an NDP government, she will be able to make things happen in a way she couldn’t in opposition. I am appreciating, too, that with her election, Sheila has doubled the number of women MLAs that have represented Nanaimo. It took 120 years to elect me as the first and just 30 more to elect Sheila. There’s a lot to celebrate with Sheila’s win.”

Malcolmson said that while she may not be representing Gabriola, the island has “been attached to Nanaimo as part of that riding boundary for as long as anyone can remember, except for the last couple of elections. 

“We know the connection is strong and it is pretty neat Jan has moved here since she served Nanaimo as MLA.”

Having been working in elected office for Gabriolans since 2002, first as an Island Trustee and then as the Member of Parliament, Malcolmson has history of working with MLA Doug Routley.

“I’ve loved working with Doug on a lot of projects, and so I’m really excited - he was an early encourager of me, I’m looking forward to the chance to work with him, even more than I did as an MP.”

The day after Malcolmson was elected as MLA, the Snuneymuxw First Nation issued a release quoting Chief Mike Wyse saying, “On behalf of Snuneymuxw First Nation, we congratulate Sheila on her election as the new MLA for the Nanaimo Electoral District. For a number of years Sheila and Snuneymuxw have built a progressive relationship, first in her role at Islands Trust and more recently as Member of Parliament. We look forward to continuing and deepening the approach with Sheila and the Government of BC for the benefit of Snuneymuxw and Nanaimo.

“Real reconciliation, including the proper implementation of our rights under the Treaty of 1854, requires relations premised on respect and recognition and the willingness and vision to take concrete steps in building a more just future for all.

“We have significant challenges to overcome in the region - urgent change and progress must take place. We know that Sheila has the vision and courage to help craft us together that new path and working with Premier Horgan and the whole government, the people of Snuneymuxw and Nanaimo will be beneficiaries of a brighter future.”

Malcolmson said when she saw the statement from Chief Wyse, “that meant the world to me.” 

“Snuneymuxw had come out and knocked on doors, had worked to get their vote out. We worked regularly throughout the campaign including a meeting with Chief Wyse and the Premier. So I know the relationship is strong. And still those words really moved me. 

“Like a lot of relationships, you might be in them for a long time without knowing how far you had advanced through them. 

“I’m so grateful our relationships are so strong now and we’ll keep strengthening them.”

Malcolmson said she is going to be focusing on local issues within her district, including the ferry issues.

“Nanaimo and our area are so ferry dependent. We’re looking forward to the next step, the pending report on restructuring the ferry corporation to make sure it is strong as a public entity.

“We lost so much ground in the 16 years the Liberals moved it to a more corporate and user-pay model. I am really grateful to all the islanders who stood up to that.

“The other focus which we heard really strongly through the campaign is health care and affordable housing.

“There are 300 new affordable housing units committed for Nanaimo, with more to come.”

She said she also wants to continue the work on getting more care hours for seniors in care homes, and starting to restructure home care.

“I heard so much about the corporatization of that - there is a lot of work to do on that. Adrian Dix was here during the campaign, he heard a lot from the frontline workers.”

Malcolmson thanked Gabriolans for the help they gave during the campaign, and for providing her with “training” since she was first elected to the Trust in 2002.

“Gabriola Islanders helped in a huge way with the campaign.

“People came over to knock on doors, help with reception, on election night, people were helping scrutineer, to pull in supporters, make sure they got rides to voting; I’m really grateful for the extra help. 

“I learned so much here since 2002, I feel very well trained by islanders. Everything I do at the federal and provincial level is informed by what I live here.”

Malcomson earned 12,114 votes, beating BC Liberal candidate Tony Harris, who had 9,691 votes and Michele Ney of the Green Party who had 1,783 of the votes. In all, 24, 287 votes were registered.

The by-election came about after MLA Leonard Krog stepped down to successfully run for the Mayorship of the City of Nanaimo in the 2018 local government elections.

Going into the by-election, the BC Liberals held 42 seats in the Legislature; the BC NDP held 41; and the Green Party held 3.

The BC NDP and Green Party, with their “Confidence and Supply Agreement,” held the balance of power in the Legislature with 44 seats.

But the by-election had the potential to change that. If the BC Liberals won, they would have tied the combined BC NDP and Greens with 43 seats.

As such, the by-election in Nanaimo was hotly contested.

Malcolmson said she was not surprised to see results as tight as they were.

“We knew it was going to be a tight race, because the government turned on this.

“We knew the Liberals would throw everything they could at it.”

For the by-election, there were six parties on the ballot compared to four in the 2017 General Provincial Election.

24,287 valid votes were made in the 2019 by-election, compared to 24, 836 in the 2017 General Election.

Krog won in 2017 with 11,498 votes, 46.3 per cent of the total.

As noted before, Malcolmson earned 12,114 votes in the by-election, 49.8 per cent of the votes.