Home Election Tracker BC Green Party Getting it right for BC Green candidates in 2024

Getting it right for BC Green candidates in 2024

BC Greens need a certain type of candidate, and it's a tough search.

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BC Green Party leadership Sonia Furstenau (Party Leader) and Adam Olsen (House Leader), Fall 2023. [Composite - Island Social Trends]

Thursday November 9, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC

Political analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


This week it became more evident how difficult it is to find suitable candidates for a small political party, when the BC Greens suddenly found themselves accepting the resignation of one of their deputy leaders and presumably one of their high-profile candidates for the October 2024 provincial election.

bc greens, sonia furstenau, adam olsen, sanjiv gandhi
BC Greens leadership (from left): BC Greens House Leader Adam Olsen, MLA (Saanich North and the Islands); BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau; and now-former Deputy Leader Dr Sanjiv Gandhi, from Oct 2023. [BC Greens]

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau made it clear that she readily accepted (and expected/directed) the resignation of Dr Sanjiv Gandhi on November 8 after he ‘Liked’ a social media post in X (Twitter) that compared the BC Provincial Health Officer to a doctor who committed atrocities during WWII.

Furstenau said in social media yesterday evening that she was “made aware” of Dr Gandhi’s “liking a tweet with an inappropriate comparison between our provincial health officer and Mengele”. She said: “I find this unacceptable and I have removed Dr. Gandhi as deputy leader and accepted his resignation as a candidate.”

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Suitable candidates:

Suitable is defined here as though who can be seen as likely to win a seat for their party in a general election.

Suitability includes public likability (though Winston Churchill was disliked until he proved indispensable), keen awareness of the top issues (beyond singular issues), fluid capacity to articulate the top issues (be a good communicator), and a sharp attentiveness to what can and should be done in the public theatre (political savvy).

Incentives to candidates for a small party are tough to offer. Likely the prospective candidate already has a reasonable public profile and possibly they want or need more.

Prospective candidates for a third party need to be motivated to generate change but also be able to accommodate the ‘win’ going to the larger party or government. Prospective candidates will need to be willing to take a financial hit to their business and/or family life as they transfer a chunk of their life force to the political cause.

Political practicalities:

Given those and other factors, generally, the BC Greens end up seeking out or accepting candidates who have developed a public profile through protest or organization around a singular issue, or involvement in local causes.

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By default, they are not attracting candidates who are suited for upward mobility in the two major parties, as the NDP and BC United have already had their eyes open for netting those into the system.

The BC Greens by default must look beyond the mainstream political system for finding their candidates.

Current BC Green leadership:

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau herself was previously a teacher, and while critically sharp with her political attacks in the Legislative Assembly (arguably shaping the direction of some key provincial policy) she takes a more gentle approach toward her daily dealings in politics.

That she did not see the trouble coming with Gandhi is an oversight that a career politician may not have missed (or even allowed room for in the first place). Or maybe she did see the potential fault lines but ran with it as any politician in need of candidates would do.

sonia furstenau, october 2023, bc green, legislature
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau in the BC Legislative Assembly, Oct 16, 2023. [Hansard]

Furstenau was Director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) for three years. Her constituency work since first being elected in 2017 (winning as MLA for Cowichan Valley) has included protecting Cowichan Valley watersheds, facilitating conversation between government and community groups about child wellness, advocating for updated infrastructure in health and education, and supporting First Nations leadership.

adam olsen, bc green, house leader
BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen in the BC Legislative Assembly on November 8, 2023. [Hansard]

BC Green Party House Leader Adam Olsen started political life as a municipal councillor, moving to the provincial level in 2017 (winning as MLA for Saanich North and the Islands). He brings his First Nations experience to the political arena with insight and passion.

Lately Olsen has been pummeling away on the Minister of Children and Families Services about what he says are inadequacies and failures in that ministry.

In the House, Furstenau and Olsen make valiant efforts and introduce valid directions for new policy. To keep that going after 2024, they will need tough seasoned community leaders as candidates to join them in the legislature.

Valiant effort:

Kudos to all who are involved in this effort of being the third party with a Green desire — both the party leaders and the prospective candidates. It’s an uphill battle riddled with sacrifice but sweetened with the promise of making a difference.

Society needs every single contributor to the process of ‘making a difference’. No one should be deterred from participating in that valiant cause.

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British Columbians are fortunate to have the thoughtfulness and caring approach of Furstenau and Olsen in the legislative chamber; their remarks and Question Period contributions clearly humanize things with real insights about real situations for people in everyday situations, with a view to positive future directions.

If the BC Greens hope to expand on that impact, they will have to somehow sweeten the pot to attract the right sort of candidates to their team. The legislative structures (place and processes) are a tough game entwined with rules and tradition, based originally on a two-party system (left and right, or liberal and conservative). That any third party exists in that system is a victory in itself.

The Gandhi flub:

In the case of Dr Gandhi flubbing the ball for a race in a high-profile Vancouver riding (where he would have been running against the current NDP health minister), there was obviously some festering anger from a medical perspective.

bc green, sonia furstenau
BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau introduced Dr Sanjiv Gandhi as the candidate for Vancouver-Renfrew, on Sept 7, 2023. [Livestream]

A skilled and experienced politician would not have made the mistake that he did yesterday. Or perhaps it was his unconscious way out from a political process that he was finding to be not a right-fit for his career aspirations or personal mindset.

Gandhi is a former surgeon who was brought into the BC Greens during the pandemic years to help boost what Furstenau and team thought was good medical expertise on their side. Gandhi became a deputy leader of the party in January of this year. Gandhi recently had said he felt that Furstenau was not like most politicians, which he found encouraging.

In making that fateful click on ‘Like’ in X (formerly Twitter) yesterday, perhaps Gandhi had realize that his work with the BC Greens would always be an uphill grind. Or at the very least how he might feel if he were to lose by running against the province’s health minister in the upcoming provincial election.

The confidence Gandhi had for being a surgeon was perhaps not a good match for political rough-and-tumble with the third party.

Tripped up by the NDP:

When former BC Green leader Andrew Weaver left the party at the end of 2019 (sitting as an independent in January 2020), that left the Greens open to the machinations of the NDP machine; then Premier John Horgan swept in with a snap election that he called in September 2020 and considerably diminished Green influence in the legislation by achieving an NDP majority.

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BC Party Leader Andrew Weaver made possible the NDP government in 2017, doing a Supply and Confidence Agreement with then Premier John Horgan. [web]

In 2017, Horgan and Weaver had established a progressive left in BC politics by conjoining through a Supply and Confidence Agreement; with Weaver gone, Horgan saw his way to a firm NDP majority.

That NDP majority is a tall brick wall for the BC Greens in the legislative process; the best any of the three opposition parties can do is to suggest amendments.

Impact of the BC Greens:

British Columbians are actually quite fortunate to have the thoughtfulness and caring approach of Furstenau and Olsen in the legislative chamber; their remarks and Question Period contributions clearly humanize things with real insights about real situations for people in everyday situations.

If the BC Greens hope to expand on that impact, they will have to somehow sweeten the pot to attract candidates who can afford to take the risk on behalf of their communities.

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Mary P Brooke, Editor & Publisher, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been following BC politics for decades — living through it raising a family the 1986-2015 period, and as a news publisher and editor 2008 to present with: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and now Island Social Trends (2020 to present).

She has covered elections at all levels (municipal, provincial and federal) on the ground in the west shore of Greater Victoria and south Vancouver Island.

Ms Brooke now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery. This year she was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation award given to a woman journalist who contributes to her community through journalism.

Ms Brooke ran for school trustee in School District 62 in 2022.