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BC Greens plan to stop skipping byelections, says interim leader

Should there be byelections in British Columbia in the next four years, the Green Party will aim to put forward candidates, despite missing the last three such contests, says interim leader Adam Olsen.

"I think the goal of the party should be to provide a Green Party option on the ballot in every riding that we possibly can," Olsen recently told The Tyee. "It's to find quality candidates, to ensure we're raising funds to help support them and help them raise money so they can run a credible campaign."

The party skipped the July byelection in Westside-Kelowna saying Premier Christy Clark had won the general election and deserved to have a seat in the legislature. The Greens did run a candidate against Clark in the 2011 byelection in Vancouver-Point Grey after she'd become premier by winning the Liberal leadership.

The Green Party also sat out byelections in 2012 in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope. Then leader Jane Sterk said recent byelections had not been good for the party and that entering them would have triggered the need for an audit, an expense the party didn't want to incur.

In the May general election the Greens elected their first MLA, Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head. Sterk has since quit as leader and Olsen, who got 32 percent of the vote and came within 400 votes of winning in Saanich North and the Islands, was named interim leader.

"In terms of byelections I think they present a pretty interesting opportunity to the Green Party over the next number of years," said Olsen. "There always is a small handful of byelections in any given legislature. Depending on where they are and the kind of candidates we can pull in, of course I think we should be taking them seriously and giving a good shot of running in them."

He declined to criticize the decisions to skip past byelections, but said, "My preference would be to give people the opportunity to vote Green at every opportunity."

With the next general election scheduled for 2017, it will also be important for the party to present a credible, costed platform and to explain to British Columbians what the party supports, said Olsen.

It's fine to oppose things, but the party needs to present thoughtful, developed alternatives, he said. "If not 'yes', then what? It's important for the party to develop then clearly articulate the 'then what' and that's clearly part of our mandate over the next few years."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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