B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk faces a significant challenge heading into the 2013 provincial election — winning the party a seat in the legislature.

While Sterk is a former Esquimalt township councillor and has run in provincial and federal elections, she remains largely unknown outside of her own riding on southern Vancouver Island.

In the 2009 provincial election, Sterk won just 16 per cent of the vote, coming in third behind the NDP and Liberals.

While the party captured just over eight per cent of the popular vote in 2009 — down from a high of 12 per cent in 2001 — the Greens have never won a provincial seat in B.C.

And even though the only federal Green MP in the country, Elizabeth May, was elected in nearby in Saanich-Gulf Islands, the Greens have a relatively low profile in B.C. politics.

Joined Greens in 2001

Sterk first joined the Green Party of B.C. in 2001 after retiring to the southern Vancouver Island community of Esquimalt in 1997 after a career in counselling and computer retailing in Alberta.

She won the leadership of the Green Party of B.C. in 2007 after the former high-profile leader, Adriane Carr, stepped down to become deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada and later a Vancouver city councillor.

The party has 10 core principles, including sustainability, social justice, grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom and diversity.

Since being elected party leader, Sterk has focused on the strengthening the party’s internal structure, implementing financial controls and paying down the party’s long-term debt.

Her first campaign for the Greens was the 2004 federal election when she ran in the riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, placing fourth with just over nine per cent of the vote.

Sterk then turned her attention to provincial politics and ran for the B.C. Green Party in the May 2005 provincial election in the riding of Esquimalt-Metchosin.

But faced with a resurgent NDP under their new leader Carole James, the Greens' support fell to nine per cent of the overall vote and Sterk placed third in her riding.

Later that year she ran in the municipal election, this time topping the polls and winning a seat on the Esquimalt town council, where she served until 2008.

At the B.C. Greens' annual meeting in Victoria in October 207, Sterk defeated five other candidates and took over the party's leadership from Carr.

Councillor, business owner, MBA professor

Sterk was born in 1947 in Edmonton, where she lived most of her adult life. In 1967 she married her husband John, a lawyer with whom she has two sons.

She obtained a master's in education and later worked as a public school teacher. She also earned a PhD in counselling psychology from the University of Alberta and worked as a psychologist in private and public practice.

In 1983, she and a colleague opened a computer retail business in Alberta, Softwarehouse West, which prospered and eventually grew to 60 employees.

In 1997, she and her husband retired to Vancouver Island with the intention of learning to sail in preparation for a trip around the world.

But after two abortive attempts, which took them as far as Cape Flattery, Wash., and then Mexico, she turned her attention to politics instead.