A messy dispute within the Green Party of B.C. has left the party divided over whether it should run a candidate against the incumbent NDP MLA in Saanich South.
Green leader Jane Sterk abruptly cancelled a nomination meeting set for Saturday to avoid what she said was an uprising by some Saanich South members who wanted to “hijack” the meeting and support NDP MLA Lana Popham.
Instead, Sterk said her election readiness committee will unilaterally acclaim Branko Mustafovic — a local photographer and chef — as the riding’s Green candidate. The move bypasses any vote by members in the Saanich South constituency association.
“We’re a political party that’s in the business of running candidates,” said Sterk. “It came to our attention that there was a group, a small number of people, who would like to sabotage our ability to run a candidate in Saanich South because they want to support someone from another party.”
Guy Dauncey, a Saanich South Green member, said he believes Popham — a farmer and environmental activist — is the most competent and environmentally friendly MLA possible for the riding.
Running a Green candidate would only hurt Popham’s re-election bid if it pulls votes away from the NDP, he said. Popham won the riding by only 482 votes in 2009.
“I don’t want to see an unnecessary, stupid vote-splitting spat,” said Dauncey, who also supported Popham in 2009.
“What the Green party should do is a unilateral act of political kindness by not running a candidate there. It doesn’t benefit them and it doesn’t benefit the NDP [for the Greens] to run a candidate without any political experience.”
Instead of fighting Popham, the Greens should focus their resources on electing deputy leader Andrew Weaver in neighbouring Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Dauncey said.
The internal Green dispute is the latest example of strategizing among local politicians and candidates in advance of the May provincial election.
Some pundits predict the Green party could become a major presence, both provincially and federally, after federal leader Elizabeth May won the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2011, and the party posted a strong second-place showing in last month’s Victoria federal byelection. NDP candidate Murray Rankin won the seat.
Weaver also made headlines last week by suggesting a friend told him the B.C. NDP would prefer that he not run in Oak Bay-Gordon Head — a claim the NDP has sharply denied.
The Greens are trying to offer an alternative to the NDP and Liberals, Sterk said. The party estimates it has only 20 to 25 members in Saanich South. Of those, Sterk said she believes five are pro-Popham, and she called on them to resign.
The party had offered not to run a candidate against Popham if she left the NDP to sit as an independent, Sterk said.
The Greens aren’t running candidates against independent MLAs Bob Simpson (Cariboo-North) and Vicki Huntington (Delta South), Sterk said.
Popham said it’s not her place to comment on Green party internal disputes, but added that she’ll run on her record and is pleased to hear she’s garnering support from members of other political parties.
© Copyright 2013