Scorned BC Green: 'The Gong Show Needs to End'

Ousted candidate for party chair reveals fractures in the provincial party.

By Andrew MacLeod 29 May 2014 |

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

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Suspended party chair candidate Len Laycock characterized the provincial Greens as a tiny, clubby party. 'A lot of people are fed up.'

Len Laycock, who was running to be chair of the British Columbia Green Party, said the party's provincial council voted to suspend him and remove him from the ballot without due process just days before the party votes in its new executive council.

The motion to suspend Laycock was put forward by the party's lone MLA Andrew Weaver and seconded by interim leader Adam Olsen at a hastily called May 22 provincial council meeting that barely made quorum, he said.

"They're doing this in mid-election," Laycock said in a phone interview. "They've already made their decision."

Stopped in the hallway at the B.C. Legislature Wednesday, Weaver said the matter is confidential and that he wouldn't comment on it.

"We have personnel issues that happen 'in camera,' and that's where it is at this stage," said Olsen, reached by The Tyee while driving into Kelowna for meetings ahead of the party's annual general meeting on Saturday, where voting for executive positions will take place. "Personnel, membership, human resources, that's where these issues reside."

Olsen said the party would not say anything publicly until the issue is resolved.

'Gong show needs to end'

Laycock, however, was keen to air his side of the story and said he was doing it publicly through The Tyee because he's unable to directly reach the party's membership. "The means to communicate is very limited."

A past marketing director for companies like IKEA and Woodward's who lives on Vancouver's North Shore, he said he and others got involved in the provincial Green Party about a year ago with hopes of strengthening it ahead of the 2017 election.

"We think the gong show needs to end," he said. "I'm not doing the party any favour by putting behaviour like this under the rug... I think this needs to be known."

It's not enough to focus on a couple of winnable constituencies on Vancouver Island, he said, adding the party needs to win 12 or 15 seats in the next election. "That does require a proper organizational structure, it requires funding."

His platform called for professional fundraising, reorganizing the party's structure, providing effective support to members, creating a database to help build membership, developing a communications plan and quadrupling party membership by 2016.

He's put forward a resolution that includes a nine-page plan for reforming the party's governance structure.

'Conservative' faction threatened

The Green Party includes factions, primarily a conservative group and a more progressive group, he said. His candidacy and proposals seem to have threatened the more conservative group, which includes Olsen and Weaver, he said.

"They got an influx of new blood, but had no appetite for new thought," he said. "People are somewhat set in their ways. It's disappointing to see that."

The Green Party is a tiny, clubby party with a single MLA, he said. "It's handy for them to have control of the whole thing."

As support for his platform has grown, some have become "alarmed" he might win against Bob Lorriman, the candidate for party chair that Weaver and Olsen support.

"The ugly, ugly part of it is two of Andrew's supporters hastily filed complaints about me," he said. He characterized the complaints as "slap dash" and said he was given just two days to respond to them when the party's bylaws said he should have had 10.

The complaints went through an ombudsman who is also a Weaver supporter and who was not elected according to the party's bylaws, he said.

He also said the provincial council meeting that voted to suspend him was called without sufficient notice.

The complainants said Laycock had harassed them, he said. "Really what it was was just asking persistent questions," he said.

In one case, the complainant said Laycock had "smirked" at him at a party event. "I guess one person's smile is another person's smirk."

Party healthy: Olsen

At its root the party's conservative faction is trying to suppress Laycock's candidacy and his proposals for change, he said. "They don't want a vote."

Since last August, the party's membership has dropped by about 15 per cent from 1,100 members to as few as 930, he said. "It really ought to be going the other way," he said. "People are dropping. A lot of people are fed up."

Just 66 said they'll attend the annual general meeting in Kelowna, down from 125 at a comparable meeting last September, he said.

"The problems of the last year have come to fruition," he said, questioning the party's organizational wherewithal and ability to raise money and spend donations well. "Nothing is going on on a province-wide basis."

Olsen said the state of the party is healthy. "No, membership's not dropping," he said. "We've been well received and having a good time."  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics, Environment

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