First, yes, I agree, I missed the NDP winning this. I did not read the dynamic of the race correctly and misread who was motivated to vote and who was not.
Look at the total vote over a series elections:
Party 1991 1996 2001 2005 2009 2012
Liberals 8601 8977 13814 11368 9885 4399
Right Wing 7619 3110 0 0 1198 3548
NDP 5866 5749 2155 6534 5638 5772
Greens 241 220 1511 1651 951 0
Others 0 5548 968 343 93 294
Spoiled 408 107 94 118 95
Total 22149 24467 18542 20014 16960 14013
Libs+Right 16220 17635 13814 11368 11083 7947
Right wing means Socred in 1991, Reform in 1996 and Conservative in 2009 and 2011. In 1996 MLA Bob Chisholm ran as an independent
The turnout was around 42%, which is decent for a by-election.
The NDP clearly managed to get roughly the same number of long term votes they get in this area. The only election they were not in the 6000+-500 vote range was in 2001. Add 3500 to 4000 to the 2001 result and the total voter turn out rises to 22,000 to 22,500.
What I take from this is that the people voting NDP are more motivated to get out and vote and supporters of the BC Liberals and conservatives generally were not motivated to vote. Even if one adds the 2009 Green vote to the NDP support, the outcome in the by-election is better than the turnout would have predicted. NDP supporters turnout at about a 53% level. Yes, some of this is because some BC Liberal voters voted for the NDP, certainly Laurie Throness is too far to the right for some federal Liberal types.
The combined centre-right and right vote was down 3100 and 3400 from the last two general elections. On a 42% turnout in the by-election, with all else equal, the right would have had 9000 votes, 1000 more than they achieved. The effective turn out the right was more like 36%.
Even if the right had achieved a higher turnout and the NDP turnout was lower, the Liberals would likely still have won. It would have been a very close race.
Over 21 years the fall in support in this area has all been on the right. Federally in the same area over the same time the right wing vote has held up better when one adjusts for changes to the riding populations. Turnout federally in 2008 and 2011 is running seven percentage points higher than the provincial turnout in 2009. Applied provincially, this is shortfall of 2400 voters.
So what was the impact of no Green candidate? If a Green ran, I suspect they would have taken around 700 votes. So where would those votes come from? I suspect 150 from the Libertarian, 300 from the NDP and 250 from non-voters. I do not think a Green would have had any impact on the by-election.'
If in the general election next year we have a turn out of 52-55%, this will mean 3300 to 4300 more voters than in this by-election. Who would these voters be? Are there enough NDP supportive voters for them to retain the seat? Can the Liberals gain enough in the votes to make up the 1400 vote gap? Will enough Conservative voters vote Liberal in 2013 to change the outcome? Without knowing what will happen on the right over the next ten months, it is hard to say now how this seat will turnout in 2013.