NANAIMO — Veteran NDP MLA Leonard Krog won Nanaimo’s mayoral race Saturday with a pledge to clean up a scandal-plagued city hall and restore order to a dysfunctional local council.
Krog defeated rival candidates Don Hubbard and Raymon Farmere by a large margin, with 17,577 votes to Hubbard’s 5,630 votes after all but one of the polling locations had reported preliminary results at 9 p.m. The city’s chief electoral officer said official declaration would be delayed until later Saturday due to a counting error at one of the stations.
“I think the numbers tonight say my assessment was correct that the people of Nanaimo did want me to run and I’m humbled and honoured by the margin of what appears to be victory tonight,” Krog said at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, where the public gathered to watch results.
“As a guy who has been around politics for awhile, as Jackie Gleeson would say, ‘How sweet it is.’”
Krog’s campaign centred mainly around convincing voters his political skills, developed over 18 years as an MLA, could restore decorum to a city hall he said had become a national laughing stock following a series of special prosecutor investigations, lawsuits and firings.
Krog, 65, said he thinks he can work with the new council to turn things around.
“We are not going to be an embarrassment to the province of British Columbia and we’re not going to be an embarrassment to the people of Nanaimo,” he said.
Ending the embarrassment in the Harbour City proved the dominant issue at the municipal ballot box, though candidates also wrestled with what to do over a growing homeless camp in the downtown core.
Incumbent mayor Bill McKay — who was at one point sued by the city for allegedly leaking confidential information, before the legal action was dropped — chose not to run again, as did half of the eight-person council. Preliminary results Saturday appeared to show only two incumbents re-elected, Ian Thorpe and Sheryl Armstrong.
Council meetings had in the past become raucous affairs, punctuated by shouting and personal insults. The city’s former chief administrative officer, Tracy Samra, was arrested for allegedly making threats against the mayor and others, and later fired. Former chief financial officer Victor Mema was also fired after questions about his expense account.
Krog said a homeless tent city in Nanaimo — where more than 300 people have gathered for five months and face eviction on Nov. 30 — is mainly a provincial issue. The city, he said, should co-operate in finding land for the B.C. government to build upon.
Rival candidate Hubbard, a former board chair of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, had called for a long-term plan to help those suffering mental health issues and better city bylaws to prevent future homeless camps from returning to city land.
Hubbard, 72, had also tried to turn the NDP government’s speculation tax into a wedge issue.
“If you think this is bad, just wait to see what he can tax if he’s actually in charge of your local government,” Hubbard wrote on his campaign Facebook page late in the campaign.
“Leonard Krog’s always been a tax and spend guy, why would you believe he’s changed?”
Krog has said he’ll resign as MLA after winning the mayoralty. The resulting by-election could destabilize the minority government of Premier John Horgan should the NDP lose the riding.