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And The Winner Is….

By Stuart Hertzog
October 23rd, 2007

Jane Sterk wins the Leadership

Sweet smile of success: Jane Sterk at the victor’s podium

After a long-delayed and occasionally contentious campaign, Esquimalt councillor Jane Sterk has been chosen as the new Leader of the BC Green Party. Members’ first and second choices were tallied up and allocated in the party’s preferential voting system. The results were as follows:

First Round Balloting

Jane Sterk 294 46.3%
Ben West 150 23.6%
Damian Kettlewell 111 17.5%
Silvaine Zimmermann 54 8.5%
Jack Etkin 26 4.1%
Total Ballots 635 100%

As no candidate had an overall majority in this round, the second choice votes of the last two candidates were reallocated to the other candidates, less any spoiled choices plus exhausted ballots where no second choice was indicated. Now with over 50% of the votes, Jane Sterk was declared the winner.

The Final Result

Jane Sterk 330.5 51.9%
Ben West 167.5 26.3%
Damian Kettlewell 128.5 20.2%
Spoiled 0.5 0.1%
Exhausted 10.0 1.6%
Total Ballots 637.0 100%

Perfect for the Party

In many ways, Jane Sterk is an excellent choice for the BC Green party at this time. Authentic, calm, mature, politically experienced and personally resolute, she represents more than the other four leadership candidates the middle-aged, middle-class centre of BC and Canadian politics — a centre to which the Green party must appeal if it is to have a chance at getting Green MLAs elected to the legislature in 2009 and beyond.

In the final reckoning, runners-up Ben West and Damian Kettlewell were just a shade too idealistic and inexperienced to counter the natural gravitas that Jane Sterk projects. Not that I think that Ben and Damian — or Jack Etkin and Silvaine Zimmermann — weren’t excellent candidates in their own right. All ran creditable campaigns and presented themselves well.

Rising stars

Ben and Damian, both young men in their early adulthood, revealed powerful political organizing and speaking abilities that mark them as rising stars in the British Columbia political firmament. Damian has an impressive sense of what is media-worthy, while Ben’s political organizing ability and understanding of the essential nature of Green politics was a delight to behold, if only to my eyes.

Jack Etkin also impressed with his direct and eloquent pointing to the primary issues of health care, media concentration, and democratic deficit that are of concern to so many people at this time. Silvaine Zimmermann’s light and lovely openness ably reminded us of the roots and history of Green politics.

All four candidates should not be disappointed at losing to a more mature and experienced politician. Politics is a learning process and their experience of this campaign will stand them in good stead to become excellent and effective Green city councillors and MLAs in the not too-distant future.

A difficult task

Jane takes on the leadership at a time when the fortunes of the Green Party of BC are on the rise. That’s a good thing, as they couldn’t have gotten much worse. Membership has dropped by more than half from a high of around 3,600 to the present meager 1,600 registered BC Greens, in a growing province of over 4.3 million. My calculator tells me that’s a penetration rate of only 0.037%

With so few members, it’s been difficult for the party to recruit and manage volunteers, with the result that the few who did come forward or who were elected to sit on provincial council suffered from early burnout. As a result, many constituency associations atrophied or became essentially defunct.

This sad situation was exacerbated by the almost complete elimination of regional representatives on provincial council after a rule change initiated by director Roy Ball that made it virtually impossible for local constituency associations to elect a member to represent their region on council.

And the party has been tagged by the media as a ‘spoiler’ vote that’s going to ensure that Campbell’s Blue Meanies will continue to dominate BC politics. Veteran Vancouver politico Fred Bass brought forward a motion to strike a deal with the NDP to not compete in a number of constituencies, but it was laid aside.

The depth of mutual antagonism between BC NDP supporters and BC Greens could guarantee that an overt arrangement of this type may not fly in either camp. But it’s something that Jane and party strategists will have to consider.

Just a spokesperson?

Internally, there is dissention between those who want to see an open and inclusive approach to politics, pitted against what I view as an arrogant, elitist, and secretive clique that has come to dominate decision-making on the party’s increasingly-powerful provincial council. Clearly, I’m of the former group.

Unfortunately, this clique still dominates the newly-elected council, and is pushing to restrict the role of Leader to that of just a spokesperson. But with Jane’s admitted determination, competitiveness, and psychological manipulation skills, it will be interesting to see how she handles this self-confident faction, who have been called The Young Turks, and their sage advisor Mr. Roy Ball.

Jane, I wish you the best of luck! For once, I see a glimmer of hope after a long period of personal despair at the state of the BC Green Party. It’s going to be a difficult balancing act, but I suspect that BC Greens may at last have elected the leader of the first Green MLA caucus to sit in the BC Legislature.

Watch Jane’s acceptance speech


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