Shades of green

There have been times in the last month when it felt like Tuesday, May 12 would never get here.

Tuesday is the day British Columbians go to the polls and chose either to continue with the Liberal government, or to go in a very different direction. It's an interesting contrast voters face, made all the more stark by British Columbians' grudging reluctance to acknowledge that, in fact, there is an election. You can blame that on too many federal elections in recent years, the lack of an Obama-esque leader anywhere in Canada, or just plain frustration with the choices.

Across the province, the election is between the Liberals and the NDP, with the NDP spending a lot of effort on about 20 swing ridings that could give them control of the legislature. The West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding isn't one of those swing ridings, at least not for the NDP.

It may be, however, for the Green Party. As Green candidate Jim Stephenson said at Saturday's all-candidates meeting, in most ridings it's a contest between the Liberals and NDP. In this riding it's between the Liberals and the Greens.

Across the province the Green Party received just over nine per cent of the vote in the 2005 election. In West Vancouver-Garibaldi it was more than 26 per cent.

This election is also about the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which could be part of a radical change British Columbians may decide to make on Tuesday. Polls have shown the yes and no sides in the STV campaign just about even, which would mean a second defeat for STV, given that it needs the support of 60 per cent of voters.

STV is being heavily promoted by the Greens. Stephenson noted Saturday that STV and other forms of proportional representation generally lead to more women being elected. "I think that's a good thing," he said, "Though not necessarily in this riding."

Stephenson is a strong candidate. A Lions Bay resident, he holds joint Economics and Business PhDs and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He is a financial systems consultant and a former business professor at UBC and SFU. He has also run twice for the Green Party in federal elections, finishing third in the North Vancouver riding in 2008, with almost 11 per cent of the vote. He has taken the Green philosophy to heart, recycling his battered federal campaign signs with Green Party "of British Columbia" stickers covering the space where they read "of Canada" during last fall's election.

The Greens, and STV, seem to gather a lot of empathy in Whistler, the meagre turnout for Saturday's all-candidates meeting notwithstanding. The party's general philosophy and thoughtful candidates in 2005 and again this year connect with a lot of Whistler voters.

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