On Feb. 12, when the legislature reconvenes, the distribution of seats will be the same with 44 seats for the NDP-Green alliance compared to 42 Liberal MLAs.

But even though the seat distribution is the same, below the surface it’s not, according to University of Victoria political scientist Michael Prince.

“It doesn’t change the dynamic in terms of stability of the government. But it might change the tone,” Prince said.

B.C. Green Party support collapsed to seven percent in the Nanaimo by-election, compared to 20 per cent in the 2017 provincial election.  Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said supporters decided to vote NDP to ensure a victory.

“The media has framed this, correctly so, as really a pivotal byelection, one that puts the whole government structure at play. And we know that that has affected us,” Weaver said.

“I think it’s a bigger issue than that. I think it’s, what’s their brand? What’s their identity? Why do we have a Green Party in B.C.? What do they stand for when they basically supported every NDP piece of legislation,” Prince said.

Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is using the byelection results as an opportunity to refresh his party.

“At least three of our BC Liberal MLA’s have signalled that they are not running again. And that’s the opportunity for renewal with candidates like Tony. People who are young, enthusiastic, who know their community. And that’s what we’re looking for,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson won’t say who is stepping down. But the longest-serving MLA is deputy assistant speaker and Liberal MLA Linda Reid at 28 years. Former Finance Minister Mike de Jong and former solicitor general Rich Coleman were both elected in 1996 and now have 23 years of experience.

“Every party needs renewal. Every party needs new blood, fresh faces, and new ideas. And that’s what we’re doing,” Wilkinson said.

“Tony Harris in a way represents that refresh. It didn’t work out for them last night in terms of a victory, but there’s a larger lesson there to be taken, sure,” Prince said.

Mary Griffin