Trent alumna Sheila Malcolmson ’85 isn’t leaving politics anytime soon but, then again, she has never ventured all that far from the political arena she has known much her life.
Making the difficult decision to vacate the Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP seat she held since 2015 to seek election to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Ms. Malcolmson was rewarded on January 30, winning election as the NDP MLA for Nanaimo.
Ms. Malcolmson garnered 49.5 percent of the popular vote to win the by-election over her closest rival, Liberal candidate Tony Harris. It was a key victory for her party as Ms. Malcolmson’s win allows the NDP to hold onto its slim Green Party-aided minority in the provincial legislature under Premier John Horgan ’79. He’s also a Trent alumnus with a degree in History.
“Thank you Nanaimo…I look forward to working with John Horgan and his team and continuing our government’s work of making life better for the people of Nanaimo and across BC,” tweeted Ms. Malcolmson following her victory.
A resident of Gabriola Island, just east of Nanaimo, Ms. Malcolmson earned her BA in Environmental Studies/Science at Trent.
“Trent influenced me enormously,” she recalled. “It taught me to think on my feet, speak from the heart and defend good ideas, and to recognize the inter-connectedness of all things. New Democrat MPs Nathan Cullen ’94 and Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet ’74, Premier Horgan and I all draw on Trent’s teachings.”
Ms. Malcolmson notes that her time at Trent helped foster her political skills.
“My first starts in leadership were in the student union and the Trent University Naturalist Group, which I co-led for a year with my friend Noel Sinclair ’86. I made lifelong friends there. I love that professors John Wadland and Fred Helleiner continue to follow and support my political campaigns.”
She has deep roots in social democracy: her grandfather John Osler ran three times as candidate for the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation in British Columbia.
Before heading to Ottawa and the House of Commons in 2015, Ms. Malcolmson worked as an energy policy analyst for non-governmental organizations. In 2002, she began serving the first of four terms with the Islands Trust Council, elected as its chair in 2008 and lobbying all levels of government for fairer ferry service, marine safety and oil spill prevention.
“Environmental and Resource Studies, Canadian Studies, and Native Studies were also far ahead of their time, and sent me on such a good path,” she noted. “Education was far more affordable in the 80s, so I graduated with no debt. Students today have to work so much harder than my friends and I did.”
Lee Hays ’91, director of Alumni Engagement and Services sees Ms. Malcolmson as an example of alumni impact.
“Sheila joins an extensive network of alumni working in all three levels of elected office,” she said. “It’s yet another example of Trent alumni leadership in action. Sheila is a loyal alumna and great ambassador within Trent’s alumni network and we wish her continued success in her newly elected role.”