Greens vow to stay positive, keep NDP accountable, push for climate action measures

B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau says she made the choice to run a positive campaign, but it wasn’t always easy.

“We ran a relentlessly positive and forward-looking campaign,” Furstenau said in an interview Sunday. “Very consciously, and every day, and sometimes several times a day, I made the choice to remain positive.”

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The Green Party is expected to keep its two seats on Vancouver Island, and pick up a third on the mainland.

There remain about 85,000 absentee and 525,000 mail-in ballots to be included in the final count. The results on election night gave the NDP 53 seats, the Liberals 27, the Greens three, with four ridings undecided.

“While there are still many votes to be counted, we are seeing incredible success where we haven’t before,” said Furstenau, in a speech on Saturday night at the Delta Hotels Ocean Pointe Resort. “I take your trust and faith in me and our party very seriously and I promise to serve you dutifully every day in the legislature,” she said.

Fursteanu was just one week into her leadership when NDP Leader John Horgan ripped up a 2017 confidence and supply agreement that saw the Greens hold the balance of power with the NDP. Horgan called a snap election on Sept. 21, despite a fixed election date of Oct. 16, 2021.

It would have been easy to succumb to anger and negativity, said Furstenau.“But throughout the entire campaign I focused on being of service to something bigger than me or a party, to a future I think we have to work hard to create for our children and their children.”

After a breakthrough in 2013 with the election of Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the party of one built upon that success with two more Island seats in 2017.

Based on the election night count, Furstenau is keeping her seat in Cowichan Valley, Adam Olsen is keeping Saanich North and the Islands, and Jeremy Valeriote, a geological and environmental engineer, picked up a third seat in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

In preliminary results, the party was second in several ridings and received about 15.3 per cent of the popular vote, down from 17 per cent in 2017.

“The NDP engineered this election to get a majority and wipe out their opponents,” said Furstenau, “but they were only half successful.”

“While they may get their majority, British Columbians have returned Green MLAs to hold the government accountable.”

The B.C. Greens will pressure the province to “properly act” on the climate change crisis by ending its subsidies to the oil and gas industry. It will also hold the NDP to their word on adopting all the recommendations of the Old Growth Review Panel, said Furstenau. In addition, the B.C. Greens are pledging to keep the government accountable on back-to-school plans, support for small businesses and tourism operators, those in long term care homes, “and those left out of the prosperity of this province.”

Furstenau, leader in a successful fight to shut down a contaminated soil dump near Shawnigan Lake, said she’s never been afraid of hard work and she’s spent the better part of ten years being told she can’t accomplish something, only to accomplish it. “We’ve shown that partisanship is less important than advancing policy that makes a difference in the lives of British Columbians,” said Furstenau.

She said in the final days of the campaign, Horgan “opened the door to wanting to work with the other parties.”

On Sunday, Horgan stressed he will be working with all of his colleagues in the legislature for all people in British Columbia.

“I am going to work with every single MLA as best as I can,” said Horgan, “because I know how frustrating it was, when I was an opposition member, when I brought forward good ideas and the needs of my community, oftentimes I was dismissed because my neighbours didn’t vote the right way and I will never, never, govern that way.

“If people need help, I don’t care how they vote, where they live, we’re going to do our level best to help them,” said Horgan.

UVic political scientist Kim Speers said there were concerns leading up to election night that the B.C. Greens would be reduced to one seat or “wiped off the political map” given the time and money the NDP and Liberals put into targeting the two Green Island ridings. Instead, the B.C. Greens’ win was “historic” in that they won a seat off the Island and appear to be second in some ridings, said Speers.

David Black, a political scientist at Royal Roads University, said the outcome for the Greens is mixed bag.

A party with a handful of seats amid two larger parties across 87 ridings will be more “subject than master” of its political destiny, said Black.

Still, the B.C. Greens have demonstrated they are more than “a one-hit wonder” having found a beachhead in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. “The importance of establishing presence on the mainland cannot be underestimated,” said Black. It compensates for losing their seat in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“They have survived with seats through three election cycles now; they’ve proved something to themselves and the B.C. public,” said Black.

On Sunday, Horgan spoke about the collaboration in the legislature since March and that he wants to get back to that. He said things had become very “unhappy” since June.

Furstenau denies that was the case. “Moving forward, let’s hope he does intend to work more collaboratively, but that means being more open to input and disagreement and hearing different points of view on things and if he couldn’t do that on a couple of bills this summer — that was enough for him to throw his arms up in the air — I’m not sure what that means for the future.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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