Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

The leader of the B.C. Green party is betting on a legislature in which one party doesn’t hold all the power in the final days of a snap election campaign that began a week after her leadership victory.

After supporting the NDP in a minority government, Sonia Furstenau said she is driven by “a sense of purpose that we did improve governance and politics in British Columbia by having Greens in the legislature.”

The election in 2017 brought the Green party power it had not previously enjoyed after its three-member caucus struck a deal with the NDP.

Furstenau, 50, points to the Greens’ role in policy-making over the last 3 1/2 years, from a ban on corporate and union donations to the fair wages commission to the CleanBC plan and work to protect wild salmon.

“The list goes on and on,” said Furstenau, who was first elected to represent the Vancouver Island riding of Cowichan Valley in 2017 after serving as the director for the regional district in Shawnigan Lake.

When COVID-19 hit the province, she said people saw the legislature at its best as members of all three parties worked together to tackle the pandemic.

“We recognized in this kind of health emergency that we had to put service ahead of everything else,” she said in a telephone interview, pointing to the rapid approval of $5 billion in funding for pandemic relief in late March.

RAED MORE: B.C. Green leader pushes Horgan on climate, Wilkinson on debt

The agreement between the NDP and the Greens was not unlike coalitions and other forms of collaboration common in some European countries, said Max Cameron, a politics professor at the University of British Columbia.

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats under the province’s first-past-the-post electoral system, he noted.

The primary contest in this election is between the Liberals and the NDP, he said, but recent advertisements by the New Democrats target Furstenau as well.

“What that suggests to me is that they are conscious of the fact that some of Sonia Furstenau’s arguments are working with the electorate. She is saying we need collaborative government.”

NDP Leader John Horgan said at his first campaign stop that any collaborative spirit from the summer had evaporated as the legislature was marred by partisan “contempt and acrimony.”

Furstenau has decried his decision to send voters to the polls, calling the election unnecessary and irresponsible as the province grapples with the pandemic and charts a path to recovery.

On her seemingly strained relationship with Horgan, Furstenau said she expects to have a collegial relationship with everyone in the legislature if she is re-elected.

“But I’m not motivated by, you know, having a buddy friendship,” she said, referring to former Green leader Andrew Weaver, who has expressed his support for Horgan in Saturday’s election.

Furstenau calls the Greens’ platform “incredibly progressive” when it comes to social policy and she drew praise for her answer to a question about white privilege during the televised leaders debate in the campaign.

She acknowledged that she can’t fully understand what it’s like to experience racism and highlighted the Greens’ proposal to introduce anti-racism education for all students in kindergarten to Grade 12.

The Greens also promise to establish a basic income for youth aging out of care, as well as a yearlong period in which people receiving income support can earn extra money without it being clawed back.

Income assistance as it’s currently set up entrenches people in poverty, said Furstenau, adding that income certainty was essential to her well-being as a student and single parent in her 20s.

READ MORE: B.C. Greens’ election proposals include 4-day work week, free child care

Cameron said the Greens have been working to stay to the left of the NDP and the biggest difference between the two parties could be their positions on the natural gas industry and Site C hydroelectric dam.

The NDP has offered the industry tax breaks and incentives, which Furstenau said is not only fuelling the climate crisis but also“locking us in the past” by curtailing innovation.

Using that money to create a clean energy economy in B.C. could mean building renewable energy projects in every part of the province and sustain more jobs than the oil and gas sector, she said, noting B.C. has untapped geothermal capacity and opportunities for wind, solar and tidal energy.

Public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 restricted Furstenau’s ability to introduce herself to voters throughout B.C., so the new leader said travel and building a provincewide network of volunteers and future candidates will be a top priority once it’s safe to expand social interactions.

And no matter the outcome of the election, she said the Greens won’t stop trying to make a difference.

“You show it between elections,” said Furstenau. “You show what it’s like to have people engaged in politics who are not here to serve a party but are here to serve their communities.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC GreenBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Just Posted

Lori Weseen gives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to William Lindstrom. Lindstrom was the first person immunized at the new clinic inside Arena 2 in Quesnel. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
‘We answer the call,’ Quesnel nurse one of many making pandemic switch

Vanessa Salmons is helping lead vaccination efforts in Quesnel

A crash on the Quesnel River Bridge is backing up southbound traffic on Highway 97 in Quesnel. (File Photo)
Crash on Quesnel River Bridge backs up southbound traffic

At least three vehicles were involved in the collision, which took place on the bridge

The Gold Rush Cycling Club is asking users of the Wonderland trail network to respect any temporary trail closures that may be necessary during trail construction. Four new trails are anticipated to be constructed this year. (Photo submitted)
New development on the horizon for Quesnel’s Wonderland Trail Network

Construction on four new trails to start soon, says Gold Rush Cycling Club

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
First expedited workplace closure order issued in Northern Health

Quesnel businesses MikeGroSite and Dewan Enterprise closed

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Italian-Canadian prisoners at the Kananaskis prisoner of war camp in Alberta. (University of Calgary/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

Then-minister Rich Coleman, escorted by Victoria Police, makes his way to the east wing amid a protest blocking the legislature entrances before the throne speech in Victoria, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. money laundering inquiry testimony ends today with reappearance of Rich Coleman

Responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, Coleman been recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month

Colin Dowler rests in hospital recuperating from wounds suffered from a grizzly bear attack north of Campbell River. He was able to end the struggle by stabbing the bear in the neck with a knife like the one he is holding. Photo submitted
‘Bad-ass dude that took on a grizzly bear’ doesn’t let 2019 B.C. attack bring him down

Campbell River’s Colin Dowler gets on with his life as his rehabilitation continues

Most Read