VANCOUVER - Jane Sterk says she plans to stay on as leader of British Columbia's Green party, working to support the first Green ever elected in the province while continuing to build the party from outside the legislature.
Green candidate Andrew Weaver, a respected climate scientist who teaches at the University of Victoria, defeated a Liberal cabinet minister to win the riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. It's the first time a Green has been elected to a provincial legislature in Canada.
During the campaign, Sterk suggested she would likely step down if she didn't win her own riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill. She lost to NDP incumbent Carole James.
Her immediate reaction on election night was that she wasn't sure about her future, but it was a meeting the following morning that finally changed her mind about whether to stay or go. The Green party's chair, Weaver and the party's executive director all urged Sterk to stick around.
"This is kind of an unprecedented situation: we have an elected Green MLA when the leader of a party is not in the legislature," Sterk said in an interview Thursday.
"Andrew will get more familiar with the job that he has to do as MLA, and we'll talk about how I can support him and how I can help the party move forward to more wins. We'll develop a strategy moving forward and it will become more clear to me the role I can play as leader."
Sterk will also face an annual leadership review in August.
Weaver won Oak Bay-Gordon Head with 40 per cent of the vote, defeating Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong by nearly 2,500 votes.
In Saanich North and the Islands, the party came within 335 votes of the second-place NDP and fewer than 400 behind the Liberal winner. The narrow margins in the riding are expected to trigger an automatic recount.
Sterk was the only other Green candidate to capture more than 30 per cent of the vote, but three other candidates had more than 20 per cent and another 13 were above 10 per cent.
Provincewide, the party received eight per cent of the popular vote, slightly less than in 2009. But there were only 61 Green candidates, compared to a full slate in 2009, and the average support in ridings that actually had Green candidates was 11 per cent.
Sterk says the short-term plan is to ensure Weaver has what he needs to transition into life as a member of the legislature. Weaver is a newcomer to politics, and he has acknowledged the steep learning curve that awaits him.
After that, Sterk says she'll be working to ensure the party has a full compliment of constituency associations, a roster of quality candidates, and an effective fundraising machine — not only before the 2017 election, but also for any byelectons that emerge.
At least one byelection is expected as Premier Christy Clark attempts to secure a legislature seat.
Having a leader who isn't also focused on the legislature will allow that work to continue unabated, she said.
"The party has a huge amount of work to do," said Sterk.
Weaver said Sterk has his full confidence and deserves credit for how well the party performed on Tuesday — including his own win.
"She was the one who got me into the party; she's built the party over the years," said Weaver.
"I think we're a team. It's a big job being a single MLA, and it's a big job being a leader as a party. It would be a doubly big job if you were the leader of a party and an MLA and were trying to build the party, too."
Weaver is realistic about his ability to influence policy in the legislature as the lone Green.
He said he believes in collaborative decision-making, and he'll attempt to encourage the Liberal government to incorporate his ideas, rather than attempt to put forward private member's bills that would be doomed to fail.
"My role is going to be to raise issues that otherwise wouldn't be raised because of the party whip system, and to do so in a manner that actually allows one to discuss issues other than hurl insults," he said.
"What I'm hoping to do is to be in a situation to support good policy and to be able to argue against bad policy."
With Sterk having cleared the air on her own future, there are still two other party leaders who haven't said what they will do.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who lost an election many observers and pollsters believed was a lock for the New Democrats, has remained out of the public eye since election day. The party's president has said the loss won't trigger a leadership review, but Dix has so far been silent on what he will do.
Conservative Leader John Cummins plans to stay on as leader at least for now. The party failed to elect any members and only received five per cent of the vote. Cummins has said he plans to announce his long-term plans at some point in the future, at the very least before a scheduled leadership review in the fall.
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