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Provincial Greens optimistic at meeting, planning for 2013

VICTORIA - Despite taking a beating at the polls in the May 12 provincial election, participants at the British Columbia Green Party's Annual General Meeting set a positive tone.

"Some of us have gone through a roller coaster of emotions over the last 10 days," said party chair Walter Meyer zu Erpen in his opening speech.

Those emotions didn't show as the party celebrated campaign successes and discussed tactics for the next four years.

"Those who suggest the Green Party is just going to fade away are living in some sort of political fantasy land," said Meyer zu Erpen. He congratulated Green candidates on doing well at the polls despite limited funding and shaky media coverage.

"I think we all had hopes of a breakthrough in this election," said party leader Jane Sterk.

Green Party candidates received eight percent of the popular vote in the recent election, down from results in 2005 and 2001. No Greens were elected to the Legislature.

Sterk's lunchtime speech touched on many of the issues discussed throughout the day.

Activity in the four years between elections is key, Sterk said. She laid partial responsibility for the Greens' lack of success on party disorganization.

"If we're at the same stage as we were at eight weeks ago in 2013, we're not doing that again," she said.

Also, the party should broaden its messages, she said. "I don't think we even need to talk about the environment anymore," she said. "Everybody knows we have the best environmental policy."

Instead, Sterk called for a stronger public relations focus. Greens need to be more assertive about going after votes and maintaining party visibility between elections, she said.

"I think we need to recognize that we can't just be nice people with good policy," she said.

The party came under fire in March after releasing the "Green Book," their platform, which stated support for ending the drug prohibition and bringing back a provincial police force. Sterk called the current version of the Green Book "version 1.0", saying revisions were necessary and the party needs to improve on seniors, childcare, and arts and heritage policy.

More aggressive fund raising is also essential for the Greens to gain political force, Sterk said.

Ideas flew thick and fast at the AGM. However, Sterk and other party members cautioned, party change needs to be tempered by evidence and research.

Sterk said the process will start for her when she returns in early August. After what she described as "a hard campaign," the party leader is headed for a vacation.

Kat Eschner reports from Victoria.

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