Talking to Furstenau about her life, the BC Election, and young voters
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
The 2020 British Columbia provincial election is underway. With candidates declared and the election day of October 24 coming fast, BC’s political parties are navigating themselves through this pandemic election to try to appeal to the voters of the province. One of those hopefuls is Cowichan Valley MLA and BC Green party leader Sonia Furstenau, who won the leadership race of the party one week before Premier John Horgan called a snap election, breaking the Confidence and Supply Agreement that the NDP had signed with the Greens in 2017. The Other Press was granted an interview with Furstenau to discuss her entry into politics, the youth vote, and the Green party’s vision for the future of BC.
Furstenau’s start in politics began under an activist campaign. Back in 2013, the Liberal government approved the dumping of contaminated soil near the watershed of the Shawnigan Lake. “I couldn’t stand by and let that happen,” said Furstenau. She spearheaded letter writing campaigns and got the word out to local media to stop the dumping. She and the town were successful in stopping the permit. “I was really proud about what we did as a community.” She then decided to throw her hat in the ring for a seat as an MLA for Cowichan Valley and won in 2017, becoming one of three elected Green party members.
Despite being the minority party of the coalition government, the Green party was able to get a lot of bills and agreements reflecting the values of the party passed in the Legislature, including professional reliance reform, banning big money, establishing the innovation and fair wages commissions, child welfare reforms, and many other bills and initiatives. “The list goes on and on.” That is why it was so disappointing for the party that Horgan called the snap election. Furstenau was one of the most vocal critics against Horgan’s decision. She says that her and fellow Green MLA Adam Olsen pledged support to the NDP the Friday before Horgan called the election. Furstenau believes that Horgan called the election out of a desire to consolidate power and free himself from being accountable. Furstenau and the Greens are taking Horgan’s decision in stride though, “We went from literally having zero candidates at the start of the election to 74 […] We have some incredibly inspiring and amazing candidates,” Furstenau said.
One of those candidates is Kate O’Connor, a 17-year-old candidate in Saanich South, who will be turning 18 on October 9. When asked Furstenau about why younger people do not vote in elections, she said that younger people do vote, but they are often betrayed by the broken promises of the parties make to them. She cited Justin Trudeau’s win in 2015, that was followed by the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and turning his back on electoral reform. She believes that the key to getting younger voters engaged is to have candidates that represent them not just in policy, but in age. “We have to earn the trust of people who vote, and we have to be truthful and honest […] I don’t want to see this generation of young voters feel that they don’t have someone to vote for,” she said.
When asked what her party will do for the average Douglas College student struggling with the immense challenges of the day, Furstenau says that she has met with reps from many post-secondary groups who are working to get more access to grants, and providing relief to the burden that tuition is putting on college students. As a former teacher herself, Furstenau knows the value of an education, and the importance of being able to follow one’s passion should not be halted due to lack of funds.
“As an MLA I said to my colleague who works on my calendar, any youth group, any school, and university that asks for my time, I always said yes.”
– Sonia Furstenau
Accepting this interview with the Other Press is part of Furstenau’s outreach to younger voters. “As an MLA I said to my colleague who works on my calendar, any youth group, any school, and university that asks for my time, I always said yes because I really am committed to focusing on young people and youth,” she said. Furstenau wants to bring multiple groups that may not feel accurately represented in BC into the political discussions of the province. She believes that BC politics is better with a wealth of diverse voices, and that is what the Greens intend to bring to the Legislature.