With B.C. voters now heading to the polling stations for the snap election, Sonia Furstenau, the leader of the B.C. Green Party, is committed to addressing the multiple crises that have been exacerbated in the age of Covid-19. In particular, Furstenau and the B.C. Greens are committed to fighting the affordability crisis, the overdose crisis, and the climate crisis.
Elected as leader of the B.C. Greens on September 14, 2020, Furstenau maintains that adopted policies need to do more than put bandaids on the affordability crisis, and instead need to generate new and real economic opportunities. In this way, Furstenau would like to pay as much attention to people and their well-being, and to inequality, especially poverty in children and in Indigenous peoples. “I think that we have to be very serious about addressing the growing inequality that we have in B.C.,” she said in an interview.
“Our platform is the only plan that provides help for British Columbians and small businesses now while building a more sustainable and equitable province in the long-term”
Furstenau is also a passionate advocate for early childhood education, and as a B.C. Green MLA, she has successfully promoted changes to the child welfare system and developed childcare and early childhood education programs. In the age of Covid-19, Furstenau is motivated to provide teachers and school districts the necessary funds to meet the new challenges of this current school year.
“Covid-19 has complicated the challenges that already existed in our public education system and has added new stressors,” she said in a video posted by CBC British Columbia. Not enough has been done to address the fears and challenges that have emerged in the education system, and the B.C. Greens are committed to doing just that. Furstenau’s plan involves addressing the shortcomings of the NDP’s back-to-school plan by ensuring that more resources are brought to the table for the public education system. Furthermore, she is focused on ensuring “quality education, a safe school environment, and flexibility for parents and students.” In expanding the resources available to school districts, Furstenau has the ultimate goal of preventing parents from having to choose between their child’s safety and the quality of their child’s education.
“We have to make sure every school district has access to the resources they need to deliver quality education, and that every student has access to the full range of educational resources and supports”
Prior to 2013, Furstenau was working as a teacher, and had not considered pursuing politics as a career. However, in 2013, a provincial permit allowed contaminated soil to be stored above Shawnigan Lake, which provided drinking water to thousands of people in her community. In order to create effective change, she ran for local director with the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 2014, and won the election. After “four years of battling,” the permit was revoked in 2017. That same year, she was elected as a B.C. Greens MLA in Cowichan Valley, which had a long-time stronghold by the NDP.
Ever since she was elected as an MLA in Cowichan Valley, Furstenau, a mother of three children and two stepchildren, was informed by many parents that their children had been removed from them. With twice the rate of children in provincial care compared with the B.C. average, Furstenau saw her community as in urgent need of child welfare reform. Now, as the B.C. Green Party Leader, she is committed to developing a free childcare and early childhood education program.
Sonia Furstenau ran for the B.C. Greens in 2017 not only because she was opposed to the NDP and Liberal policies that support the oil and gas sectors, but also because they failed to do enough in areas such as child welfare reform. Furthermore, income assistance as it is currently set up entrenches people in poverty, according to Furstenau. In her 20s, income certainty was critical to her well-being as a student and single parent.
In the last three and a half years that Furstenau has been in office, she has secured funding to build a new school and hospital, alleviated the impacts of the opioid crisis, and supported families that are struggling with the child welfare system. As a leader, Furstenau plans on continuing to appeal widely to British Columbians by providing real solutions to key issues in their communities.