NDP-Green agreement provides stability during pandemic: new Green leader

B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau stands by before delivering her victory speech during a press event in Victoria, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - The newly elected leader of the B.C. Green party says a power-sharing agreement with the New Democrats provides necessary stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a news conference on her first full day on the job, Sonia Furstenau said Tuesday her party is ready for a snap election but it's not the right time for one.

"(Premier) John Horgan needs to recognize that an unnecessary election right now is an entirely irresponsible thing to do," she said.

Horgan set off election speculation last week when he said the Green party he made an agreement with three years ago that allowed the NDP to form a minority government has changed.

The agreement allowed the Greens to influence legislation and policy to ban large political donations and reform lobbying, as well as have a say on environmental and economic initiatives.

Furstenau was part of the three-member Green caucus that signed the so-called confidence and supply agreement. She replaces Andrew Weaver, who stepped aside in January to sit as an Independent in the legislature.

"The confidence and supply agreement right now delivers stable government at a time when British Columbians need to know that their elected officials are focused on the people of this province," Furstenau said.

Furstenau said she spoke on the phone Monday night with Horgan and they will follow up with a discussion about the agreement "very soon."

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, she said the government should focus on the health and well-being of British Columbians and a green economic recovery.

However, should an election be called, the Greens will launch a provincewide campaign, she said.

"Of course, snap elections are a challenge, but we are absolutely up for the challenge," Furstenau added.

Before running for provincial politics, Furstenau rose in prominence as a regional government director who fought against pollution in the Shawnigan Lake area.

In January, she said she was drawn into politics during the successful fight against a provincial permit that allowed a company to store contaminated soil in a quarry in the Cowichan Valley.

Furstenau also taught history, English and the theory of knowledge to students in Shawnigan and Victoria, and was a national administrator for Results Canada, a non-profit that works to end extreme poverty.

Her Cowichan Valley seat was an NDP stronghold until Bill Routley declined to run again in 2017. Furstenau won the seat with 37.24 per cent of the vote.

In the Green leadership contest, Furstenau defeated Cam Brewer and Kim Darwin after two ballots. Her leadership campaign received the endorsement of high-profile supporters like former federal Green leader Elizabeth May and environmentalist David Suzuki.

She has said the party should become increasingly diverse and speak up more on issues like inequality, the cost of living and how to create a post-carbon economy.

"I am very focused on collaboration, on bringing people together, finding common purpose, finding common ground," she said Tuesday.

"I will continue to lead in that way."

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

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