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Green leaders look to gain ground in future

Federal Green Party deputy leader Adriane Carr, foreground, and provincial Green leader Jane Sterk address supporters at a potluck barbecue in Nanaimo Thursday. - TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin
Federal Green Party deputy leader Adriane Carr, foreground, and provincial Green leader Jane Sterk address supporters at a potluck barbecue in Nanaimo Thursday.
— image credit: TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin

Threatening grey skies were the backdrop for a Green Party love-in Thursday as federal deputy leader Adriane Carr and provincial leader Jane Sterk spoke at a potluck lunch in Nanaimo.

The lunch was held in the backyard of Anne Marie Benoit, a candidate in the recent federal election  who announced plans to run in the next provincial election.

Sterk said the provincial Green Party is facing an ominous battle in its efforts to ramp up for what could be a snap election call, which she said could take place as early as Sept. 6 for an Oct. 4 election date to not interfere with the scheduled municipal elections in November.

“We were working on a four-year strategy that was based on a May 2013 election, but everything has changed now, that plan had to be tossed out the window,” said Sterk, the party leader since 2007. “No matter what, we need to identify our candidates so they are prepared for a fall election, but anticipate we could go as far as a spring election, a fall election in 2012 or even the fixed election date, which is May 14, 2013. That’s a lot to ask of a candidate and a lot to ask as a team.”

In the most recent provincial election in May 2009, the Green Party finished third overall with 8.1 per cent of the popular vote, but no candidates were elected. Green candidates finished in third place in all 14 Island ridings.

Sterk said trying to rally 200 to 600 volunteers per riding to support candidates to run against NDP and Liberal incumbents is the party’s biggest task.

“We need to have these people in place and ready to communicate our policy,” she said. “That’s a huge challenge to accomplish in such a short period of time.”

Harold Henn, a Green supporter since 1983, said the party will have difficulty gaining traction if the national media continues to ignore it.

“They’ve ignored us, completely left us out of the conversation,” said Henn. “I think our party has earned respect on a provincial and federal level and we’re just not getting it from the media.”

The federal Greens have had more success, but only slightly.

After party leader Elizabeth May was elected to the House of Commons in May, the Greens have gained confidence in getting more candidates elected, but they aren’t relying on invites from national TV stations to participate in future television debates.

“We’re not counting on it,” said Carr, who helped co-found the Green Party of British Columbia and worked as its leader from 1983 to 1985 and 2000-06. “We put a tremendous amount of resources into Elizabeth’s campaign win, resources we couldn’t possibly provide for every candidate. But we proved we can win, we got our foot in the door, and we’re not going to let it close on us.”

In the 2011 federal election, Carr finished with 15.4 per cent of the vote to finish in fourth place behind the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP in her riding of Vancouver Centre. She ran federally for the first time in 2008.

Wearing a pale green jacket and thumbing away at a bright green Blackberry, Carr told the News Bulletin funding will be the party’s biggest challenge after the Conservative Party eliminated voter-direct financing.

“The per-vote and voter-directed financing was a beautiful part and a very democratic part of our voting system and I’m really chagrined to see the Conservatives have maligned and misrepresented the fact that each voter, by voting for a party, sent just a tiny bit of their taxes our way, to a party they voted for,” she said.

Carr, the head of the party’s fundraising committee, said that will leave the party on its own to make up for the $1.8 million in lost revenue.

“It’s 15,000 people giving $10 a month, so it’s not so bad when you break it down that way,” she said. “But we’ll be moving forward with a solid plan that supports our grassroots and our associations.”

The Green vision at all levels of government includes a green economy, cutting wasteful subsidies, building communities and families and protecting the environment.

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