Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Byelection a chance for Nanaimo to be heard, says B.C. Liberal candidate

Businessman Tony Harris, the B.C. Liberal candidate in the Nanaimo byelection: "This would be an opportunity to change the conversation around our community, and thatÕs ultimately what pushed me over the edge to do it."
Photograph By Submitted

This is Nanaimo’s time to muster support for local issues — everything from cardiac care and cancer treatment services to more affordable housing — now that provincial attention is focused on the upcoming byelection, says B.C. Liberal candidate Tony Harris.

The byelection, which has the potential to tip the scales of power in the B.C. legislature, is set for Jan. 30.
“We knew that this byelection would matter a lot to everybody. Because of that, I understood that this would be a great opportunity for Nanaimo to have its voice heard, unlike any other time,” Harris said.

“This would be an opportunity to change the conversation around our community, and that’s ultimately what pushed me over the edge to do it.”

Harris decided to run in the fall, announcing his bid on Nov. 7.
The move came just months after he backed Leonard Krog, then the NDP MLA for Nanaimo, in his run to be the city’s mayor. Harris attended the packed announcement and introduced Krog.
At that time, Harris said, there was no thought of running for the provincial seat. The 35-year-old, who says his family has been in the Nanaimo area since 1876, is busy with his real estate and investment businesses, and he and his wife, Leslie, have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and another baby due March 6.
Krog easily won the mayor’s race in October and stepped down as MLA, sparking the byelection.
Sheila Malcolmson in turn resigned her seat as the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, to run for the NDP provincially. The Green Party’s Michele Ney, a retired teacher, Robin Richardson of the Vancouver Island Party, and Bill Walker of the B.C. Libertarian Party have also announced they are running.
The deadline for candidates to file their nomination papers is today at 1 p.m.
If Harris wins, the Liberals and the NDP-Green partnership would each have 43 seats, with Speaker Darryl Plecas — who was elected as a Liberal but now sits as an Independent — holding the deciding vote.
Despite the provincial ramifications of the outcome, the race should be all about local issues, Harris said.
Harris said he’s always felt that Nanaimo has been seen as an afterthought. But it is the largest city north of the Malahat and growing, and has big-city issues that need to be addressed.
Harris, who has sat on the board of directors for the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation, said a new intensive care unit at the local hospital has been a priority. He called the provincial government’s announcement of a $33.85-million ICU, to open in 2021, “terrific.”
He is calling for further health services in mid-Island.
“I’m advocating for a full comprehensive cancer treatment centre in Nanaimo, where people don’t have to drive to Victoria for radiation treatment,” he said.
He is also pushing for a comprehensive cardiac care service in Nanaimo, again to avoid forcing patients to travel to Victoria.
Harris said the speculation tax, which is set to be imposed on Nanaimo, is slowing development down.
He is also keen to see affordable housing developed in the community. He wants to see a more diverse job market and support for Nanaimo’s high-tech sector — moves that would encourage residents to remain in the city.

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