Supporters gather a sign wave with Green party candidate Michele Ney, centre, in Nanaimo, B.C., on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.
CHAD HIPOLITO /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The B.C. Green party is taking stock after a crushing defeat in a crucial Nanaimo byelection won by its power-sharing partner, the NDP.The Greens saw support in the Vancouver Island riding plunge from 20 per cent in the 2017 general election to seven per cent on Wednesday — an outcome that had some experts speculating about whether the loss signalled an overall decline in the electoral fortunes of the party, and had the leader of the Opposition Liberals predicting rocky times ahead for the NDP-Green alliance.“It’s a sobering result for the Greens,” said Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria. “Nanaimo was one of those ridings that did above-average for the Greens, and lo and behold, they see their numbers drop (on Wednesday) … to levels they haven’t seen for some time.”If that’s a trend, said Prince, then it indicates the Greens are not going to be competitive in other ridings during the next election, and might even find themselves in a fight to hang on to the three ridings they currently hold.
Green party leader Andrew Weaver said he believes the outcome in Nanaimo isn’t indicative of the support for his party, chalking up Green candidate Michele Ney’s loss to fear-mongering and vote-splitting tactics by the NDP.But he acknowledged the results illustrate the need for his party to re-establish itself as a viable option separate from the NDP.“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.“We’re going to be focusing on our priorities and we’re not going to be focusing, moving forward on … NDP priorities,” said Weaver, adding that the change will begin with Green MLAs stepping down from a number of legislative committees.Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, cautioned against reading too much into the results from Nanaimo, noting the byelection was very different from other byelections or general elections as it had very high stakes: the potential to bring down the government.“Given what was at stake, voters went through a different calculus,” said Telford.Related Despite the hype, the results in Nanaimo, a riding held by the NDP since 2005, wasn’t going to precipitate major change in B.C.’s political landscape. “At the end of the day, an NDP stronghold voted for the NDP,” he said. Both Telford and Prince say the Greens, as the junior party in the governing alliance, are dealing with an identity crisis. The party had largely supported most of the NDP’s major initiatives, and is now in danger of becoming indistinguishable from its larger partner.Weaver will become more vocal on issues where he can distinguish the Greens from the NDP, predicted Prince. And that is something the party can do until the next general election in 2021 without violating the “confidence and supply agreement” it has with the NDP.“They have time to figure out how to get a different image in the minds of British Columbians — explain who they are and what they stand for, and not just as a choice you can drop” because of strategic voting, said Prince.On Thursday, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson didn’t miss an opportunity to deliver a jab against what he called a “very unstable coalition government.”“We’ve seen last night that the collapse in the Green party vote means there’s a lot of stress inside that coalition right now,” said Wilkinson. “They’re clearly not getting along, and we’ll see how long that lasts.”In response, Premier John Horgan said that while the Greens and NDP are different parties and don’t agree on everything, they have agreed on priorities outlined in the confidence and supply agreement.“I’m committed to working with Andrew Weaver and his caucus to see this through,” he said.“Ridiculous,” said Stefan Jonsson, director of communications for the Greens, regarding Wilkinson’s statement. “Our agreement with the NDP continues to be the guiding principle for our place in the legislature.”The confidence and supply agreement allows the Greens to guarantee the stability of government while still challenging policy, he said. “Nothing has changed because of Nanaimo.”email@example.com/cherylchan— with files from Canadian Press