B.C. Green keen on Campbell

Interim Green party leader gives premier top marks for environmental vision.

The interim leader of the B.C. Green party is thrilled at the prospect of working with B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell. According to Christopher Ian Bennett, he has had more meetings with Campbell than with the B.C. NDP in the past three months. Bennett added that, in fact, he hasn't even met with Opposition leader Carole James.

"The premier welcomes me with open arms," Bennett told the Georgia Straight. "He was fantastically accommodating, and he said, 'I'd love to see Greens in the legislature.' I want to work with him”¦and I think he wants to works with us."

Bennett said that the NDP has "not been as willing to connect with me or reach out to our party". He added that he has tried but failed to set up meetings with James.

Campbell has been sporting a greened-up image that started with February's throne speech, in which he promised a range of environmental initiatives. These include the reduction of B.C.'s greenhouse-gas emissions, tapping clean energy sources, and building a "hydrogen highway" from Alaska to San Diego.

Bennett related that he is often asked if he's bothered that Campbell has "stolen" the green agenda. "My answer is, 'Absolutely not and I love it,'" he said. "I hope he keeps making these extraordinary promises for the environment because he's gonna have to keep them."

Bennett added that although Campbell's government has yet to deliver on all of his environmental promises, he's giving the Premier a grade of A for vision.

Bennett also said that the party's willingness to work with the current government is a sign of political maturity. "To be in government, you have to demonstrate two things: the ability to compromise, and work harmoniously with the current government, whatever party that is," he said. "In the past, we have been very activist- and protest-minded. Now this is a party that has demonstrated we're able to work with the current government."

Campbell and James will address delegates to the September 24 to 28 convention of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, which has climate change as its theme. Bennett is hoping that he'll be allowed to address the delegates as well. He noted that Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed will raise a motion at the convention seeking to give him a seat at the table.

Bennett is stepping down as leader when the party holds its leadership convention on October 20. Results of an August 2007 survey by the Mustel Group showed that voter support for the Greens had grown to 16 percent, up by seven points from nine percent in the 2005 provincial election. The same survey results also indicated that the B.C. NDP's support had dipped 10 points to 32 percent from 42 percent in the last election.

Damian Kettlewell is vying for the leadership of the B.C. Green party. He noted that the party's good poll showing means that its environmental advocacy is resonating with the public.

"The NDP is challenged right now," Kettlewell told the Straight. "The public wants a political voice that will speak of the environmental issues of the day."