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

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming moves to the role of transportation minister in the NDP’s new cabinet. (B.C. government file photo)
Vancouver Island MLAs claim key roles in new cabinet

Key ministries headed by veteran and rookie Island MLAs in Horgan’s new team

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

Christmas will look a bit different in Cumberland this year, not only because of COVID restrictions but due to changes from BC Hydro about hanging decorations on the poles. Record file photo
Snowflakes left out in the cold for Island town

Holiday season tradition a no-go for Cumberland’s power poles

Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, says visitors should steer clear of the community after the second wave of COVID has begun to hit across the province. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation asks visitors to steer clear of community again

Tight-knit community of 400 has yet to report single case of COVID

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from Nanaimo daycare

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has spoken out about some veterans losing their Dimished Earning Capacity income. (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror photo)
Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

Concerned about veterans losing some income

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

No face-offs until at least Dec. 8 after the BCHL shuts down pre-sesason play. (Citizen file)
BCHL cancels remainder of the pre-season

Island teams see their exhibition season cut short

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Most Read