Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May joins Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidate Paul Manly on the campaign trail Sunday on the Harbourfront Walkway. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Candidates hit the campaign trail as Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection called

Trudeau announces that voters will go to the polls May 6

Nanaimo won’t have to wait until the fall to have a political representative in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that there will be a federal byelection May 6 in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.

RELATED: Trudeau to campaign in Nanaimo on Monday

Candidates so far include Michelle Corfield of the Liberals, John Hirst of the Conservatives, Paul Manly of the Green Party and Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada. The NDP does not yet have a candidate in place, with Lauren Semple and Bob Chamberlin seeking the nomination.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith has been without a member of Parliament since the start of 2019 as Sheila Malcolmson of the NDP resigned to successfully win a seat representing Nanaimo in the B.C. legislature.

Federal candidates were out on the campaign trail immediately today. Manly was accompanied by party leader Elizabeth May at stops on Gabriola Island, downtown Nanaimo and Ladysmith.

“We have an organized team, we have an open office, we have scores of volunteers, Paul managed to save all the lawn signs he used in 2015, so we’re back out there and it’s very exciting,” May said.

She had predicted that there would be a byelection, but some weren’t sure it would happen. Semple said with election fatigue in Nanaimo and only months until the general election, she isn’t sure a byelection is in the best interests of voters.

“With everything that’s been happening in Ottawa, it definitely kind of greyed up the possibility this was going to happen, but in no way am I surprised,” she said, adding that today’s announcement was exciting for her and has fired up her campaign team.

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Hirst said he thinks the timing of the byelection is an effort by the Liberals to catch the NDP off-guard.

“The Liberals just put their candidate in place and with the budget [last week], from a timing perspective, they’re not going to find a more advantageous time to run a candidate in Nanaimo-Ladysmith,” he said.

Manly was asked if the NDP entering the campaign without a candidate is an advantage to the Green party.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said, adding that he’s wondering why the NDP hasn’t selected a candidate yet.

“I think everybody knew that we had to get ready,” said Corfield. “When Sheila stepped down, she stepped down with the clear knowledge that Elections Canada demanded that there be a byelection.”

Semple suggested a lively NDP nomination period happening right now can have some advantages.

“Our nomination race will just lead right into the byelection campaign for May 6. It’s going to help build momentum, it’s going to help people get energized and stay energized to carry them through,” she said.

RELATED: Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Corfield was out campaigning the first day and said she’s feeling supported both by her party and by the community as things get officially underway.

“I’m absolutely ready,” she said. “Physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, I’m ready.”

Hirst was the first confirmed candidate in the riding and said he’s been ready for the campaign for a long time.

“We’re likely better prepared than most other parties and this is something we’ve been looking forward to for awhile, so we’re glad it’s E-day…” Hirst said. “Essentially, a lot of the pieces have been in place for us, so it’s executing on plans we already have in place and making sure we’re out and talking to people as much as we can.”

Clarke and her team were out door-knocking Sunday in the Terminal Park neighbourhood.

“We’ve been preparing for several months now,” she said. “We actually thought the byelection was going to be called with the other three byelections that happened recently, so we’ve been chomping at the bit to get there.”

Clarke said she recognizes the challenge ahead of representing a new party.

“I think people have that mindset of voting for an old, established party, but I think what we’re offering is something new and fresh and full of integrity,” she said. “We’re going to bring truth and justice and honesty back into Parliament and we’re going to do politics completely differently.”

Manly said a byelection campaign is a little different than a general election campaign because strategic voting doesn’t need to be a factor, as the Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP won’t really alter the balance of the House of Commons. But he pointed out that electing him would double the Green caucus and strengthen the party.

“If the NDP, Liberals or Conservatives win this seat, there’ll be another backbench MP who’s told what to do, told how to vote, told when they can speak and it’ll be inconsequential; status quo,” he said.

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An e-mail from the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Conservatives sent out Sunday suggested the PM is calling the byelection to “cover up his SNC Lavalin scandal” and “distract voters,” and criticized the other major parties.

“The Liberals are still in damage control, the NDP has yet to hold a nomination meeting and the Greens are running the same candidate from the last election,” the e-mail noted.

Right-wing fringe party the National Citizens Alliance has indicated it will also run a candidate in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

In the 2015 general election, Malcolmson and the NDP won the seat with 33.2 per cent of the vote. Tim Tessier of the Liberals was runner-up with 23.5 per cent; Mark MacDonald of the Conservatives took 23.4 per cent and Manly of the Greens earned 19.8 per cent.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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