An NDP victory in a crucial byelection has prompted political soul-searching in British Columbia, with the Opposition Liberals hoping to revitalize their party while the Greens distance themselves from the New Democrats.

The Nanaimo byelection had the potential to tip the balance of power in the legislature, as the NDP have 41 seats and govern with the support of three Green members. The Liberals hold 42 seats. In the end, New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson won the riding with over 49 per cent of the vote.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he wasn't surprised by the collapse of his party's vote in the riding, from 20 per cent in the 2017 general election to seven per cent on Wednesday. He heard from many Green supporters who said they would vote NDP to maintain the status quo in the house, he said.

However, he said the byelection sent a message that his party has to more clearly distinguish itself from the New Democrats. The Greens have a vision while the NDP has "none," other than they're not Liberals, he said.

"We haven't been very good at telling our story. We haven't been very good at telling British Columbians that a lot of the stuff that's happened are actually B.C. Green priorities — getting big money out of politics, lobbying reform," Weaver said on Thursday.

"If the B.C. NDP had been left alone with the reins of this government, we would have seen dogs' breakfasts coming across as law."

He said things are going to change in the legislature, beginning with the Greens stepping aside from a "large number" of legislative committees that examine policy issues and make recommendations to the government. The committees reflect the composition of the house, so a B.C. Liberal will take each Green member's spot.

"We're going to be focusing on our priorities and we're not going to be focusing, moving forward on ... NDP priorities," Weaver said.

Weaver also accused the NDP of taking his party's support for granted, adding that the New Democrats pushed a vote-splitting narrative in Nanaimo and knocked multiple times on the doors of homes that had Green signs on their lawns.

The New Democrats declined to respond to Weaver's comments, but Premier John Horgan acknowledged Wednesday that the byelection became a test for his government.

"This was an exciting, pivotal election campaign,'' he said. "This means we can continue to deliver on the issues we campaigned on. Health care, education, housing, those are the things people are talking about.''

Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Thursday that his party's defeat has it shifting into a period of renewal.

Every party needs new faces and new blood, he said, adding he expects at least three members of the Liberal caucus to announce they will not be running in the next provincial election, set for 2021. He didn't name the three members.

"We've got a new approach to things and we're very excited about the future, as this is a very unstable coalition government now," said Wilkinson.

He said Tony Harris — the party's 34-year-old candidate in Nanaimo who took 40 per cent of the byelection vote — is the kind of successful and well-known local representative the party needs in the next election.

"That kind of youthful enthusiasm is exactly what we're looking for in candidates," he said.

He added that the Liberals increased their share of the vote from the last provincial election in the NDP stronghold.

Michael Prince, a social policy professor at the University of Victoria, said the Greens dropping out of legislative committees won't have much of a practical impact on the NDP. The committees produce reports but it's up to the government whether to include their recommendations in legislation, he said.

But the move suggests the Greens are going to dissent more often from the NDP in public.

"As the junior partner, there's always the risk that you get lost in the shadows of your senior partner, and certainly, as history suggests, that's a real risk," said Prince.

In 1985, Ontario's Liberals were able to govern with a minority by forming an alliance with the New Democrats. Two years later the Liberals won a majority while the NDP lost six seats.

Some have speculated the NDP's strong showing in Nanaimo will tempt Horgan to call a general election, but Prince said there is ongoing public anger about a new speculation tax on vacant secondary homes and going to the polls wouldn't be a good idea.

"I think that would be highly risky and seen as very opportunistic, so I don't expect that to happen."

— With files from Dirk Meissner in Nanaimo

Isn't it time to finally start referring to the party which Wilkinson heads as what they are. New Social Credit. That's what they are. There's nothing liberal about them.

Andrew Weaver is not listening to his voters. They voted strategically in Nanaimo to insure the status quo which leaves the Greens with some say in coalition governance with the NDP. It appears to me that if he goes ahead and becomes more uncooperative with the NDP that this would lead to gains for the NDP and losses for the Greens in coming elections. Voters appear to like Mr. Horgan while at the same time voting Green to express their concern for the Environment. If push came to shove well....

Yeah, Weaver's having a bit of a hissy fit. And I don't think he's a smart politician either, nor is he coming across as a principled Green. Like, there he is saying the anti-corruption thing was all him when it clearly was not and he doesn't control enough echo chamber for anyone to start believing it. That's not going to get him anywhere. Meanwhile, he's NOT talking about things like Site C or liquid natural gas which are important Green issues where the NDP have clearly not done what environmentally conscious voters (including me, actually) would prefer.
Much of the time his criticisms of the NDP come from a market-oriented direction; he doesn't seem to like their moves to try to bring down housing prices, for instance. There are multiple problems with that. First, he's wrong--his market-ish positions are bad policy. Second, whatever many Green politicians may tell themselves, environmentalism is not ultimately compatible with free-market ideas, and anyone who thinks they can make them fit is fooling themselves. Third and possibly related, free market policies are generally not popular with rank and file Greens. Finally, in the specific area of housing BC residents don't give a damn about economically correct notions any more, they want to be able to afford a roof over their heads and policies to hit that as hard and directly as possible are popular; Weaver being against doing anything useful on that file is not going to do his party any favours.

Overall, when this NDP/Green agreement started, I was expecting somewhat better from the Green side, although I had a reservation or two about Weaver from the start. Being the small partner in a coalition-style government is a big challenge, admittedly, as it's very easy for the big partner to take all the credit while you look bad for all the times their ideology won and you had to make compromises. It's a difficult, frustrating situation. But Weaver has not risen to that challenge IMO.

What happened in the December vote on proportional representation? Is that initiative now dead-in-the-water in BC? Though I think I’m more of a ranked ballot person (after all that’s what most political parties use internally, and when they don’t they end up with leaders like Doug Ford) I think that PR would have been a significant improvement over first-past-the-post.

IMHO, with first-past-the-post greenish voters are put into the ridiculous situation of always having to vote against something instead of for something. Which I guess at the moment is exactly what the NDP wants?

Interesting analysis. I'm not as up on B.C. politics, but I do agree that free market principles won't get us to that green sustainable place we need to be aiming for....and I'm always surprised that Green party people have so much trouble getting that.

What is it about unregulated Capitalism that we can sooner imagine the end of the world, than the end of a system that funnels money to the top of the mountain, while downloading the costs of doing business onto the little people, and the ecosphere?

Even regulated, there are many things that should not be subject to any market. Our children's future being one of them, water being another, affordable communities, decent housing and healthy arable land being a few more. And if these important human rights aren't market negotiable, than we need to begin the conversation about how we could and should manage them, going forward.

One would think Greens would want to be a central part of those discussions. One would think that there the NDP and the Greens would want to work together.

Apparantly, the obvious isn't so obvious once you've got your head up the behind of the free markets/impverished peoples syndrome.

This was a great analysis.

I'm still a little surprised. Mr. Horgan's rubber stamping Christy Clark's Site C Dam and the forty billion dollar LNG/Fracking industry made me promise to never vote for the NDP again.

I hope you voted for PR then? :)

If not I’m curious why not?

It seems to me that if the Greens and the NDP don't set aside their differences and start planning how to win the next election, we will have another Liberal government in BC in 2021. This informal "coalition" has worked well, no matter what the party leaders say - and we need them to continue to work well together to ensure good legislation passed since the formation of the NDP/Green alliance continues into the future.

The right wing has its own agenda and it is still a powerful force in BC. People who have voted Liberal/Social Credit/Conservative in the past will most likely continue to do so in the future, no matter what positive legislation is passed by this government.

The NDP and Greens need to play nice together for the benefit of BC citizens, not BC corporations.