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Greens’ rise will be a page-turner, Sterk says

British Columbia Green Party leader candidate Jane Sterk, left, answers questions from the public as BC NDP leader candidate Carole James listens during an all-candidates debate at the New Horizons Activity Centre in Victoria, B.C. Wednesday May 1, 2013.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

Jane Sterk says she's a realist.

The B.C. Green Party Leader concedes it will likely be the NDP – not her party – that forms the government after Tuesday's vote.

But that's not to say Ms. Sterk is lacking confidence. She says the Greens are a real force to be reckoned with on Vancouver Island. In her own riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill – where she is running against high-profile NDP candidate Carole James – she says she can win.

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"I think it's going to be one of those page-turners," she said. "I understand the skepticism and I don't think that will be put aside until the votes are counted."

In a campaign dominated by daily headlines of the NDP and Liberals attacking each others' policies and leaders, the Greens have often fallen under the radar. Unlike Liberal Leader Christy Clark, and NDP Leader Adrian Dix, Ms. Sterk hasn't toured the province, making it difficult for the party to become part of the main campaign narrative.

But what continues to drive her, she says, is her genuine desire to change the culture of the legislature, to move away from a two party-system and a political environment that prevents politicians from effectively representing their constituents. And with a party strategy that has focused on several key ridings the Greens are in the best position they've ever been in to send one of their own to the legislature.

"I think people really want politicians who will go in and speak on their behalf in the legislature and who are not going to be constrained by their party," she said, adding that she thinks people are fed up with the whip system that forces MLAs to vote along party lines.

"I didn't realize how much pent-up frustration there is amongst people about the fact that MLAs seem to represent a party and not the people. So I think that our belief that we should be taking the people's voices into the legislature is resonating and that we should be treating that chamber with more respect."

Ms. Sterk criticizes the two major parties when she has the chance. She says the NDP, for example, is only "a marginal approximation of change" to the Liberals, playing upon the NDP's slogan "Change for the Better." The Green Party's platform focuses on clean technology to spur future economic growth, and reducing the province's reliance on fossil fuels. Ms. Sterk says the Greens would create strong local economies, something she says resonates with people who are concerned about employment opportunities for their children.

If Ms. Sterk or any other Green candidate wins, it will be the first time a Green politician has made it to any provincial legislature in Canada. Ms. Sterk says that's likely to happen this time around because the party has situated several high-profile candidates, including herself, in ridings it believes it can win.

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"It's a combination of the candidate, the candidate's ability to bring resources into the campaign, and that includes both money and volunteers," she said. "And the dynamics of the riding – sort of a combination of historic support for the Green Party and what the competition is."

Ms. Sterk says an example of this is Andrew Weaver, the Green candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, a well-known University of Victoria professor who was a member of a Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Andrew has a very extensive network and he was able to raise the kinds of funds you need for a competitive campaign," she said. "Because of his personal popularity, he was able to get a really strong base of volunteers to help with the door-to-door campaign, which is the key to winning any campaign for the Green Party."

Ms. Sterk says it's similar in her own riding.

"The comments that we get from people … is that they're prepared to support the Green Party," she said. "They like me in particular, and not only have they said that, they're putting their pocketbooks where their vote is going to be. There has been some financial evidence of that support as well."

There is, of course, the possibility that Ms. Sterk will be defeated at the polls. She says she has come to accept that this would likely spell an end to her time as party leader.

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"I'm a pragmatist and a realist so I don't have any problem with that reality," she said. "But I'm anticipating being elected, so I'm not really worried about that decision."

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About the Author
News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More


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