The B.C. Green Party has suspended its leadership race due to the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial council chair Sat Harwood announced on Friday.
“We are facing a global pandemic that requires all hands on deck,” Harwood esplained. “It is more important than the political processes of the B.C. Green Party. No decision has been made on when the contest will resume, but we will be monitoring the situation on an on-going basis.”
The party’s annual convention, originally scheduled for June 26-28, has been cancelled, and staff are looking into ways to hold the meeting online.
Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau and Kim Darwin, who ran for the Powell River–Sunshine Coast seat in the last provincial election, had announced their intentions of seeking the leadership position, which has been vacant since Andrew Weaver stepped down in January. Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen has been serving as interim leader, and will remain in that position until a new leader has been selected.
“The COVID-19 crisis has impacted our lives in countless ways,” Olsen said. “A leadership contest in the midst of a pandemic cannot embody participatory democracy, one of our party’s six core principles. Instead, we must put our efforts into taking care of one another. The work of the B.C. Green Party continues in supporting emergency legislation, distributing essential information and getting people the support they need.”
Furstenau agreed with the decision to suspend the leadership contest.
“At this stage, there remains a lot of uncertainty regarding the full impacts of COVID-19 on British Columbians,” she said in an official statement. “It is clearly inappropriate to continue aggressive campaigning and fundraising in light of the stresses and pressures people are facing. In the past few weeks, we modified our campaign to a digital strategy with a sole focus on listening to and supporting people. Hundreds of people have contributed time, energy and resources to my campaign and I am deeply grateful for their support. I would particularly like to thank my campaign staff who have worked incredibly hard to build fresh excitement around the party and who now face great uncertainty regarding their futures.”
Darwin also issued a statement supporting the decision.
“We know our members and supporters are all dealing with the far-reaching, and as yet unpredictable, effects of COVID-19 in varying degrees,” she said. “Our hearts go out to those affected, whether physically or economically, and those who are caring for loved ones.
“Providing additional time for our members and supporters to focus on choosing our next leader shows compassion and understanding to those who may be struggling with all the extenuating circumstances related to COVID-19.
“We look forward to a spirited race in the near future, but our priority right now is to allow British Columbians time to focus on flattening the curve.”