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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Sue Hodgson returns as publisher of the Peninsula News Review starting June 1. (Courtesy Sue Hodgson)
Peninsula News Review welcomes back Sue Hodgson as publisher

Dale Naftel takes helm of Oak Bay News as publisher

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Most Read