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The BC Leadership Line-Up

By Stuart Hertzog
August 12th, 2007

First impressions of the BC Green leadership contenders

Jack_Etkin_01_half.jpg Damian_Kettlewell_01_half.jpg Jane_Sterk_01_half.jpg Ben_West_01_half.jpg Sylvaine_Zimmermann_01_half.jpg
Jack Etkin Damian
Jane Sterk Ben West Silvaine

Now that the summer holidays are upon us and the last thing British Columbians want to think about is politics, the BC Green party leadership race is finally getting under way.

Brilliant! Which amazingly intelligent political strategist came up with that fortuitous timing?

Not that these braves souls can ever be accused of shirking an impossible task. After all, they are hoping to save an entire planet, or at least, a whole province.

You may have thought this contest would have gotten underway earlier. Former leader Adriane Carr resigned as long ago as last November, so the astute members of the party’s governing council had plenty of opportunity to give its leadership contenders a better chance of meeting the membership at a time when they would more likely be home. Why so late in the year?

Apparently, the party’s provincial council didn’t want a leadership race this year, preferring to hold off until 2008. This would have given them many more months free of dealing with a pesky new leader who may have ideas, or – horror of horrors! – democratic ideals, of his or her own.

Mind you, with all the shenanigans that went on around the former leader, one can understand council’s reluctance to take on another prima donna.

And after sitting on its hands for six months, provincial council also decided not to promote the leadership race by sponsoring a province-wide, all-candidates’ tour. Although this would bring welcome media attention to the BC Green party, provincial council apparently preferred to let the leadership candidates prove their worth in fundraising by forcing each one to go it alone.

That’s a very short-sighted policy, in my view – unless it was designed to help those candidates with time on their hands and access to deep pockets. Of this, we may never know.

And in the Green corner….

Lack of official party support for a leadership tour means I have yet to meet all the contenders. This first impression is gleaned from brief conversations plus a close inspection of their respective campaign web sites (if they have one).

I’m planning to send out an email survey to each and publish the results, but that’s for later. For now, I’ll evaluate them on a first-impression basis, on their:

  • Stated vision for the BC Green party;
  • Motivation for wanting to become Leader;
  • Campaign preparedness and strength;
  • Internet savvy and Web site content;
  • Support for party and public democracy;
  • General electability and MLA-worthiness; and their
  • Likelihood of their actually winning the leadership.

Each candidate can receive up to ten points per category, to a maximum of 70 points. I’ve listed the candidates in alphabetical order based on their family name, and I’ll outline the reasons for the points I awarded in each category.

Let the ratings begin….


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Jack Etkin (8)

Ben West (8)

Silvaine Zimmermann (8)

Jack Etkin, Ben West, and Silvaine Zimmermann all express a clear vision of wanting to see the BC Green party develop as an open, democratic, eco-centric political alternative, so they each get eight points out of ten. Jane Sterk hasn’t defined her view as anything more than a light green environmentalism, so she gets only six points. Damian Kettlewell’s focus on being the business friendly candidate doesn’t rate highly in my view. He trails with only five points for this category.


Jack_Etkin_01_half.jpg Ben_West_01_half.jpg Sylvaine_Zimmermann_01_half.jpg

Jack Etkin (8)

Ben West (8)

Silvaine Zimmermann (8)

What moves someone to enter a leadership contest? Jack Etkin, Ben West, and Silvaine Zimmermann show a strong desire to bring democratic balance to a very out-of-whack political system, so I’ve awarded them eight points each. Jane Sterk’s motivation is green but she doesn’t seem to have a deep political analysis, so she gets only seven points. While Damian Kettlewell’s environmental credentials are excellent, it appears that he was persuaded to enter the race only by certain provincial councillors who want a more ‘business-friendly’ Green party. Not being self-motivated by a strong, inner drive isn’t good enough for me – four points.


Jack_Etkin_01_half.jpg Ben_West_01_half.jpg Sylvaine_Zimmermann_01_half.jpg

Jane Sterk (8)

Ben West (8)

Damian Kettlewell (7)

Jane Sterk and Ben West both planned their campaigns well in advance and seem to have team support – eight points. Jane Sterk’s provincial tour this past July was particularly noteworthy. Damian Kettlewell appears to have a team in place and he enjoys the support of the corporate-inclined provincial councillors, so he gets seven points. Although she has many global Green connections from years as International liaison for the federal party, Silvaine Zimmermann’s BC reach doesn’t seem to extend much beyond Bowen Island – four points. And much as I admire Jack Etkin’s progressive views and his environmental work, his decision to jump in only at the last moment leaves him to carry his campaign almost single-handed. Brave, but one point only.


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Ben West (8)

Silvaine Zimmermann (8)

Damian Kettlewell (5)

If the Internet is the future of politics, Ben West should win this contest. His web site leverages his video documentary skills and its blog-style entries and vision pieces are informative — eight points. Silvaine Zimmerman’s site is lively, informative, passionate, personal and technically with-it, just like Silvaine herself. I like it – eight points. Damian Kettlewell’s site started off well (or is that kettle?) but hasn’t moved beyond its static origins, even though he’s getting professional web assistance from Vancouver-Quadra Green candidate Dan Grice — five points. Jane Sterk’s site is beautifully illustrated but short on accessible details apart from the now-dated itinerary of her tour. Download boring Word files to read your policy views? Really, Jane! — a meagre four points. Jack Etkin doesn’t have a web site yet, althopugh one is in the works But he has sent out a couple of emails, so one point for that. Get with it, Jack!


Jack_Etkin_01_half.jpg Ben_West_01_half.jpg Sylvaine_Zimmermann_01_half.jpg

Jack Etkin (9)

Ben West (8)

Silvaine Zimmermann (8)

He may lose techno-points, but Jack Etkin scores high in my evaluation for his political insight into the imminent danger of corporate control of politics and media. Green politics is not just about the environment – nine points. Silvaine Zimmermann and Ben West aren’t too far behind on him on this – eight points each. Jane Sterk understands the alienation of the party’s grassroots membership by the current provincial council, but without the global context – seven points. Damian Kettlewell has yet to convince me that he smells the implications of free trade coffee or that the BC Green party is suffering a deep democratic deficit right now – four points.

Electability as MLA

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Jane Sterk (10)

Ben West (7)

Her current experience as a municipal councilor in Esquimalt establishes Jane Sterk as the clear leader in electoral acceptability. Traditionally, this bodes well for the provincial arena, for which I’ll give her a perfect ten. Woo-hoo! Ben West’s campaign and Green youth organizing experience should attract younger voters should he be able to get them to vote – seven points. Silvaine Zimmermann and Damian Kettlewell haven’t yet impressed me as anything more than very nice people but also-runners provincially – three points only. Unfortunately, Jack Etkin’s political insights may be too accurate for voters in this very conservative province – one point.

Chances of becoming Leader

Ben_West_01_half.jpg Jane_Sterk_01_half.jpg Damian_Kettlewell_01_half.jpg

Ben West (8)

Jane Sterk (8)

Damian Kettlewell (6)

I see this as a two-way race, with a third candidate nipping at the front-runners’ heels. I’m calling it as a race between Jane Sterk and Ben West — eight points each. But the corporatists on provincial council may pull out the stops to make sure Damian Kettlewell is on the second ballot — six points for that. A lot depends on where the oother candidates’ votes go after they drop out in the second and third ballots. And much will depend on how well the candidates comport themselves before and at the October 21st leadership convention, which is still over two months away. That’s a long time in politics.

The Matrix

To sum it all up, here’s the matrix of points for each category. Surprisingly, Silvaine Zimmermann came third, ahead of Damian Kettlewell. I thought they would end up the other way around. Maybe that’s because Damian Kettlewell appears to have been pushed rather than self-propelled. You’ve got to have good reasons to drag this particular bandwagon uphill — oops! That’s a mixed metaphor.

Jack_Etkin_01_half.jpg Damian_Kettlewell_01_half.jpg Jane_Sterk_01_half.jpg Ben_West_01_half.jpg Sylvaine_Zimmermann_01_half.jpg  
Jack Etkin Damian
Jane Sterk Ben West Silvaine
8 5 6 8 8 Vision
8 4 7 8 8 Motivation
1 7 8 8 4 Campaign
2 5 4 8 8 Internet
9 4 6 8 8 Democracy
1 3 10 7 3 Electability
1 6 8 8 3 Chances
30 33 49 55 42 TOTAL
#5 #4 #2 #1 #3 Ranking



Posted in BC, Green politics, leadership | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses

  1. penguin Says:

    Could you please substantiate your argument by providing examples that show how Ben West is a dark green and Jane Sterk is a light green? What criteria are you using to distinguish the dark from the light?

    Since other parties are now greening, it might be one way to differentiate BCGP from the other parties by focusing on dark green.

  2. Roger Benham Says:

    Well I agree with Ben West but I’ll vote for Silvaine because she has put a mass of work into the party, I’ve met her and I like her. Jane Sterk is far too much of a loose cannon.

  3. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Although I referred to Jane’s environmentalism as being of the light green variety, I didn’t necessarily imply that Ben holds dark green views. But you raise a good point and I’ll deal with that in another post.

  4. Drina Read Says:

    You say that Silvaine Zimmermann is not known outside of Bowen Island. How has she been overwhelmingly re-elected to the GPC council if nobody knows her? She is one of the founders of the GPC and she has been active at all levels. She has represented Canada at international conferences. She has the respect of First Nations communities in BC. She is well-known across BC and Canada. Her campaign covered many regions of BC. She was also a strong advocate on the provincial council for a supported leadership tour for all of the candidates to become known. For this reason, you should have given her a 10 for “campaign”.

  5. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Good point, Drina. I stand corrected. I was suggesting that Silvaine’s campaign may be limited by her not being widely known to members across the province, rather than among party activists.

    I guess we’ll soon see how effective all the candidates’ campaigns have been, and the participation rate of members in the voting.

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