A Nanaimo businessman will try to capture a critical seat in the legislature for the BC Liberals in an upcoming byelection, the party announced Wednesday.

Tony Harris was announced as the Liberals' candidate in the Nanaimo byelection, to go up against NDP nominee and current Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson.

In a news release the BC Liberals called Harris, a car dealer whose late father built a chain of cell phone stores, a "prominent 6th generation Nanaimo resident, proud father and local businessman."

Speaking at a news conference in Nanaimo, Harris said he was proud to run for an MLA seat in the community he was born and raised in.

"It's a really special place to live, to work, to play and to raise a family and it has so much to offer," he said. "But Nanaimo could be so much more. Nanaimo has never realized its full potential and that's because for years and years, we've sent the same party to Victoria with the same result."

Harris said the city has been taken for granted by the NDP, and he wants to put it back on the map.

He touted some of his specific ideas for the city, saying Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is in dire need of a new Intensive Care Unit and a cancer treatment centre where patients can receive radiation treatment.

He said he'd also fight for a foot passenger ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver, an idea that has been on-again and off-again in the Harbour City for years.

"More and more Nanaimoites are commuting to Vancouver for work, and people from the mainland are coming to the island to play," he said. "We don't have the transportation system to meet the demand. This just makes good sense."

The BC NDP announced late last month that they would field Malcolmson as their candidate in a riding that has historically been dominated by New Democrats.

A date has not yet been set for the by-election, which was triggered when current NDP MLA Leonard Krog won the mayor's seat in municipal elections last month.

It will be a key battle to see if the NDP can retain control of the BC Legislature. Currently the NDP and Greens together have 44 seats in the legislature, while the opposition Liberals have 42.

If Harris were to win the byelection, it would bring both the NDP-Green coalition and the Liberals to a tie.