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Conservation Voters defend Liberal choice to beat Lunn

The Conservation Voters of B.C. are defending their support of Liberal Briony Penn in Saanich-Gulf Islands, saying her NDP opponent's criticism of the choice shows the endorsement means something.

“The best candidate to unite the progressive vote is Briony,” said Will Horter, a CVBC board member. Penn is one of three candidates with strong environmental records trying to unseat cabinet minister Gary Lunn in the riding.

Her NDP opponent, Julian West, said the endorsement was “hasty” and might split the vote by boosting a third place candidate. West, a former senior official in the B.C. Green Party, has been a leading advocate for proportional representation. “If voters in the riding are really concerned about the long-term solution they should be supporting me because I have a track record of moving that issue forward,” he said.

“Obviously the candidates who don't get endorsed are unhappy,” said Horter. “I'm not surprised he's disappointed. Obviously a Conservation Voters endorsement means something.” However, he added, the decision was carefully considered. “He can't unite the progressive vote.”

Penn's profile is high in the area thanks to her longtime work on environmental issues as an activist, columnist and television reporter. She was a founder of the Land Conservancy of B.C. and worked hard to protect Victoria's green belt in the 1990s.

“People know I'm persistent,” she said during the CVBC press conference at a downtown Victoria hotel. “I'll keep going even when I'm unpopular and nobody seems to be saying the obvious, at least to my mind.”

If she gets elected, she said, “Nobody's going to be telling me what to do.”

The CVBC also endorsed NDP incumbent Denise Savoie in Victoria and is still considering other possible endorsements. While people from the organization said they won't endorse any Conservatives this election, it will be interesting to see if they support anyone from the Green Party.

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