Green Party of British Columbia

Infobox Canada_Political_Party
party_name = Green Party of British Columbia
party_wikicolourid = Green
status = active
class = prov
leader = Jane Sterk
president = Walter Meyer zu Erpen
foundation = 1983
dissolution =
ideology = Green, Eco-capitalism
headquarters = BOX 2827,
Station Main,
Vancouver BC,
V6B 3V2
#610-207 West Hastings St,
Vancouver, BC
int_alignment= None
colours = Green
website = []
The Green Party of British Columbia is a political party in British Columbia, Canada.

Founding and early years

The first Green Party in North America, was formed in British Columbia, Canada on February 4, 1983 registering as both a provincial society and a political party shortly before the 1983 provincial election in which it fielded four candidates and received 0.19% of the vote under the leadership of Adriane Carr. Carr won 1.83% of the vote as the Green candidate in Vancouver-Point Grey. Other candidates were Jack Boulogne in Surrey, Alan Timberlake in Nanaimo and Jeremy LeBourdais in Cariboo (LeBourdais is the son of former Cariboo MP Louis LeBourdais). In a federal by-election in the riding of Mission—Port Moody the same year, Betty Nickerson was the Green Party of Canada's first federal candidate, but the party's official status was not yet recognized by Elections Canada. She appears in electoral records as an "independent" candidate.

Factionalism and instability

Adriane Carr stepped back from active involvement in the party in 1985, and the party abolished the position of leader. Thereafter, it was represented in the media by three spokespersons. The party adopted strict consensus decision making which lead to much bickering and deadlocks. In the 1986 provincial election, the party won 0.23% of the vote and fielded nine candidates. In 1988, in response to a proposal to field only female candidates in the following election, Carr and her husband Paul George returned briefly to active involvement to defeat the proposal. From 1988 to 1992, the party was deeply divided between supporters of Carr and Greenpeace founder Jim Bohlen and its Ecofeminist Caucus. During this period, its internal politics were dominated by a compromise faction led by electoral reform activist Steve Kisby.

However, this period of relative stability ended with the party's failure to make a breakthrough in the 1991 provincial election, despite increasing its province-wide vote share to 0.86% and fielding a slate of 42 candidates. Individuals from all factions were implicated in the debacle. Future leader Stuart Parker suffered a breakdown mid-campaign. George won a mere 0.8% of the vote running against then-premier Rita Johnston who he hoped to debate but she did not show up to even one all candidates meetings. Thereafter, a period of extreme instability commenced for the next 18 months during which the party's membership rolls dropped from almost 1000 in October 1991 to 59 members province-wide in January 1993.

The Parker years

In 1993, the party elected a new leader, then-twenty-one year old Stuart Parker who revitalized the party with youthful new members. He managed to take the party to running close to a full slate in the 1996 election, but was only able to garner only 2% support province-wide, despite receiving the endorsement of prominent environmentalist David Suzuki. And Green hopes for a breakthrough in the Kootenay riding of Nelson-Creston with candidate Andy Shadrack yielded a result of only 11%. Parker's first term (1993-96) was characterized by near-continuous touring of rural BC which had, up to that point, negligible or highly intermittent organization outside of the Okanagan and Comox Valleys. This touring paid off in yielding on-going organization throughout the province, enabling the party to come just four candidates short of a full slate.

The direction of the party under Parker was set by many disgruntled ex-New Democratic Party of British Columbia members, and the policies of the party under Parker were notably leftist. During Parker's second term as leader, the party rose to a peak of 11% in public opinion polls between 1996 and 1999, almost exclusively at the NDP's expense. Although he was arrested in logging road blockades in 1993 and 1997, Parker's Greens actually invested more resources in opposing the BC Benefits package of welfare reforms and working on other social issues than it did on any significant environmental issue.

While remaining sharply critical of Glen Clark's NDP government, Parker spearheaded highly controversial negotiations to form municipal electoral alliances with NDP-affiliated parties in 1998 after vote-splitting all but wiped-out leftist representation at the local level in Vancouver and Victoria in 1996. These negotiations, approved by Clark, yielded tripartite agreements between local labour councils, Greens and New Democrats in Vancouver and Victoria, leading to Red-Green coalitions contesting the 1999 municipal elections in both cities with the support of organized labour. Neither coalition formed government but both made substantial gains, resulting in the election in Victoria, BC, of Art Vanden Berg, the first person in Canadian history to run as a Green and be elected to City Council. In Vancouver, the coalition effort also elected Parks Commissioner Roslyn Cassells. (Until 2005, when Sonya Chandler was elected running as a Green, also in Victoria, other Green Party members elected to municipal government in Canada ran as independent or unaffiliated candidates.)

Parker and his team's coalition-building efforts were not limited to working with leftists at the municipal level. In 1997, in the aftermath of the highly disproportional election results, Parker and his main strategist Dr. Julian West organized and co-founded post-war Canada's first multi-partisan electoral reform organization. The BC Electoral Change Coalition included the Greens, British Columbia Reform Party, Progressive Democratic Alliance (both of which had won seats in the election), BC Family Coalition Party and Marxist-Leninist Party. Initially chaired by Sonja Sanguinetti, then-president of the British Columbia Liberal Party, ECCO was forced to change presidents when the BC Liberal Party pulled out of the coalition. (It was at this time that the Liberals developed their Citizens' Assembly policy, arguing that political parties were in a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves from direct involvement in changing the voting system.) West then recruited Canadian Taxpayers Federation organizer Troy Lanigan to serve as the group's president. The coalition remained active and prominent in the media until early 2000, when the PDA and Reform parties disbanded and the Greens active in ECCO also resigned from their party. A number of the individuals involved in ECCO then switched their involvement to former Social Credit cabinet minister Nick Loenen's Fair Voting BC organization.

The Carr years

The party’s increased poll standing, new position on collaboration with its longtime rivals and impending electoral success attracted the attention of a number of prominent environmentalists, led by Adriane Carr, who began a campaign in 1999 to remove the party’s then leadership. The group conducted a bitter year-long public campaign that included an unsuccessful lawsuit against the party and later-disproven allegations against the party’s leader and board of directors including fraud, vote-rigging and even theft. Although the group was defeated at the party’s 1999 convention, it triumphed in 2000. Shortly thereafter, the party elected Carr as its new leader; since 2001, the party leader has ceased to be subject to annual review votes, the process by which Parker was removed. Following the 2000 convention, all of the party’s elected municipal representatives and some other members resigned.

With the high-profile changes at the top, the party was able to improve on its 9% poll standing at the beginning of 2000 and reached 12% of the popular vote in the May 2001 provincial election. In spite of that significant support, it won no seats in the provincial legislature - a fact which has been cited as an argument against the first-past-the-post system used in BC elections. But in the fall of 2002, in the province's municipal elections, although it was unable to recapture the municipal seats on Victoria City Council and Vancouver Parks Board that it lost to defections, it was able to win a seat on the Vancouver School Board.

Although she had sponsored a series of resolutions at the party's 2000 convention condemning what many saw as the party's distraction with social and governance policy at the expense of work on environmental issues, electoral reform moved to the top of Carr's agenda as leader. Disagreeing with Fair Voting BC's decision to devote the movement's energies to backing the new BC Liberal government's plan to move forward with the Citizens' Assembly process it had developed in 1997, Carr founded a rival electoral reform organization called Free Your Vote to utilize the province's citizen initiative legislation (which technically allows citizens to force referendums on legislation if they gather a sufficient number of signatures).

Despite facing public condemnation from FVBC's Loenen, Free Your Vote recruited hundreds of volunteers for the province-wide effort, building a far larger citizen organization than either ECCO or FVBC. It also gained the support of many leftists, including the official endorsement of the BC Nurses' and other unions. The campaign also faced its share of difficulties, such as leaked internal memos from the party's organizing chair explaining that organizers knew the petition drive would fail, but were simply using it to build the party's organizational base. Although the campaign only submitted enough signatures in four of the province's 79 ridings, Free Your Vote was successful in mobilizing new support for reform. But it also appears to have hardened the party's support for a single model of proportional representation (mixed-member, closed-list) and public condemnation of others.

Following the failure of Free Your Vote, Carr focused her energy on a lively province-wide campaign opposing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games bid. But once the games were awarded to BC, the party was unable to find province-wide issues that resonated strongly with voters. Between 2003 and 2005, the party's presence was notably low key as Carr returned to the constant touring mode that had characterized Parker's first term.

In the 2005 provincial election, the GPBC's vote declined to 9% province-wide from 12% four years previously. Despite being rated highly for her debate performance by media commentators, Carr's performance was poorly rated by the public and her own vote share declined to 25% in her home constituency of Powell River-Sunshine Coast, 17% behind the victorious NDP candidate. Only in the constituencies of Vancouver-Burrard, West Vancouver-Garibaldi and Kelowna-Mission did the party's popularity increase.

The decline in vote can largely be attributed to the renewal of BC NDP strength under the leadership of Carole James but other internal factors may have exacerbated this. Carr's highly centralized leadership style had undermined efforts to broaden the party's base of active members in the previous four years. Even after virtually all Parker supporters had left the organization, prominent Greens continued to depart citing an inability to work with Carr. The most striking example of this was Andrew Lewis, the candidate who received the largest number of votes in 2001, scoring a slightly lower overall percentage (25%) than Carr herself. The party's provincial strategy also appeared less coherent. They decided to concentrate their resources in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast constituency, but at the same time, put a lot of effort into recruiting candidates for all 79 constituencies. Running a candidate in Delta South, where the party had no organizational strength whatsoever, probably caused the defeat of Vicki Huntington, a green-leaning city councillor running as an independent. And the most expensive media event of the campaign was on election night, after the ballot boxes were closed.

Another factor was the party's inability to counter the polarized environment and vote-splitting rhetoric, a staple of BC politics, that had temporarily lost credibility during the 2001 campaign, but returned with new force in 2005. Carr's initial seizure of power based on opposition to Parker-era NDP coalitions left the party with little room to manoeuvre.

Another possible factor in the party’s loss of support in 2005 was its decision not to support the “yes” side in the referendum on proportional representation that ran concurrently with the election. Despite having supported the Single Transferable Vote system at the municipal level in 2004, the party’s leader and its then-only elected official, Vancouver School Trustee Andrea Reimer vehemently opposed the model provincially. Many Green candidates nevertheless supported a “yes” vote as did the the party's former leader, Rafe Mair and David Suzuki.

In the November 2005 municipal elections, the party was able to recapture a seat on Victoria City Council, after a three year absence, but lost Reimer's Vancouver School Board seat. Since the election, Carr and the party shifted notably on two issues: she now officially supports the STV model of proportional representation, and, despite being a key flashpoint of conflict in her initial struggle to depose Parker, lowering the voting age.

These measures, it seems, were insufficient to quiet increasing internal dissatisfaction with her leadership. Prior to the first annual convention following the reinstitution of the practice requiring that leaders step down and run to succeed themselves each electoral cycle (this, along with annual confidence votes had been repealed in 2001), Carr announced her resignation on September 24th, 2006. As predicted by those familiar with Carr's long-standing relationship with the newly-elected Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, Carr has accepted the paid position of Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada and will stand as its candidate in Vancouver Centre.

Today's Greens

Jane Sterk was elected leader of the party at its 2007 annual meeting, October 20-21, 2007, in Victoria. The 2007 leadership contest saw five contestants: Jack Etkin, Damian Kettlewell, Jane Sterk, Ben West, and Silvaine Zimmermann. Other council positions were also contested.

Led through 2007 by interim leader Christopher Bennett, the Green Party of BC is, in many respects where it was a decade ago.

Lacking the state funding enjoyed by its federal counterpart, it remains a party supported by roughly 18% of British Columbians (insufficient to win a seat without electoral reform) and without a secure financial or organizational base of its own.

The Greens maintain they receive support from all over the political spectrum. In the federal election of 2004, former Social Credit Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and media personality Rafe Mair confounded many by openly supporting the Green Party, and has actively supported the BC Green Party since. The Greens have often been labelled as openly right wing at the same time as being labelled openly left wing by opponents. Previous leader Adriane Carr openly supported striking hospital employees and British Columbia Ferry workers, and had been highly critical of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The Greens' strength is concentrated on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, the West Kootenays, Sunshine Coast-Howe Sound region and in high density areas of Vancouver. In 1991, the party's strongest showing was 4.4% in Rossland-Trail; in 1996, 11% in Nelson-Creston and in 2001 and 2005, in Carr's riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast where she received 27% and 25% respectively. Since pollsters began analyzing Green support in 1997, the Greens' support patterns have demographically clustered in the 18-34 age bracket, a group with, unfortunately for the Greens, very low voter turnout. While the party's activists tend to be overwhelmingly middle class, there is insufficient data to determine if this is the case with the party's voters on average as low-income voters appear more likely to vote for the party. Retirees and trade union members appear consistently more predisposed to vote against the Greens.


*Adriane Carr (1983–1985)
*position abolished by 1985 convention
*position reinstated by 1992 convention
*Stuart Parker (1993–2000)
*Tom Hetherington (2000) (interim)
*Adriane Carr (2000–2006)
*Christopher Bennett (2007) (interim)
*Jane Sterk (2007– )

Deputy Leaders

*no such position (1983–1993)
*Betty Krawczyk (1994–1995)
*Meaghan Cursons (1995–1997)
*Amy Salmon (1997–1999)
*vacant (1999–2000)
*Colleen McCrory (2000–2005)
*Dennis Perry (2005–2006)
*Angela Reid (2006–present)

Election results

ee also

* Green Party of Canada
* List of Green party leaders in Canada
* List of political parties in British Columbia
* List of Green politicians who have held office in Canada

External links

* [ The BC Green Party]

British Columbia provincial political parties

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