MLA Sonia Furstenau announces bid to become leader of B.C. Green Party

First-term Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is the first into the race to succeed Andrew Weaver as leader of the B.C. Green Party.

Furstenau made the announcement at a Monday morning news conference accompanied by six people who endorsed her bid.

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She said B.C. needs a new style of leader who listens to evidence and communities.

Furstenau said there is a disconnect between government and people that sees good ideas stalled due to “old ways of thinking and partisan divisiveness.”

Weaver was the lone Green member of the legislature until Furstenau and Adam Olsen joined him following the 2017 election, marking a historic moment for the party.

The three-member caucus signed a deal to support an NDP minority government, allowing the Greens to secure commitments to fight climate change, campaign financing and a referendum on electoral reform.

Weaver announced last fall that he would step down as leader, saying it was “time to let another generation take the lead.” He left the party this month to sit as an Independent, citing health challenges affecting his family.

Olsen is serving as interim leader until the party holds its leadership contest in June.

Furstenau, a Shawnigan Lake resident, got into local politics several years ago while fighting the plan to dump contaminated soil in a quarry above the lake. That turned into a years-long campaign, during which the site eventually closed down, leaving questions about what to do about it. She was elected to the regional board and has worked as a high school teacher.

She devoted much of her attention over her 30 months as an MLA on environmental issues, particularly climate change. She was also critical of the status quo approach to government and traditional ways of viewing political differences.

Furstenau said the Greens have been behind major policy changes including strengthening oversight of resource industries, making the legislature more transparent and accountable, and banning big money from politics.

But she said the changes have just scratched the surface of what the Greens can achieve.

“For me, leadership isn’t about being the loudest or the most dominant person in the room. It is about listening and creating a sense of engagement and belonging,” she said.

She said there is a need to embrace solutions to the climate crisis that will improve the quality of life for B.C. residents and create opportunities.

“We need to shift away from century-old markers like GDP growth to more meaningful indicators like equality, infrastructure, health and well-being,” she said.

“We need to move beyond the tired ideological wars of the 20th century, focus on the concrete outcomes we want to achieve, and work collaboratively to find the best common-sense policies to make them happen.”

She said she has raised $12,000 so far and has hired two co-campaign managers.

The new B.C. Green Party leader will be elected at a June convention. The party now has two MLAs, since Weaver followed up his resignation as leader by resigning from the party as well and opting to sit as an independent MLA for the balance of his term.

— Times Colonist and The Canadian Press

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