Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is the new leader of the B.C. Green Party. (Submitted)

Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau wins Green Party race

New leader champions diversity and collaboration between parties

Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau was elected as the B.C. Green Party’s new leader on Monday, Sept. 14.

Furstenau, who has represented the Cowichan Valley in the B.C. Legislature since 2017, became the first person to win a B.C. Green Party leadership race, beating two other contenders in a two-stage vote.

“I am so excited to lead the next generation of the B.C. Greens,” Furstenau said in a statement from the party. “Our caucus has shown that by following evidence and working collaboratively we can achieve tangible outcomes for B.C. communities, and we’re just getting started. I look forward to working with both our new and long-standing supporters to continue to grow our party.”

The party had put its leadership election on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening in June, with a three-month campaign followed by an eight-day voting period.

In a ranked ballot, Furstenau topped Cam Brewer 2,197 votes to 1,916 in the first round, while Kim Darwin was eliminated with 513 votes. The second round saw Furstenau beat Brewer 2,428 votes to 2,127.

Furstenau was the only leadership candidate with experience in the legislature.

Furstenau has been serving as House Leader in the B.C. Green Caucus. Prior to being elected as an MLA, she served as an area director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

In her acceptance speech on Monday, Furstenau lamented the lack of representation from minorities, including women, in provincial politics across Canada, and suggested that diversity will help in many ways.

“It is disheartening, but it strengthens my belief that to achieve lasting outcomes in good ways, we must increase diversity in who we elect and we must find ways to work across party lines and across jurisdictions,” she said. “The B.C. Greens put principle ahead of politics to collaborate with the other parties, even though we don’t agree with them on everything.”

Furstenau also urged Premier John Horgan to avoid calling a provincial election before it is necessary and called on other parties to follow the Greens’ example and “rise above partisanship” in the interests of the people of B.C.

“To John Horgan, I say, you have a responsibility to govern, not play politics. We have two overlapping health emergencies. We have just spent the last week gasping for our breath because of climate fires, our kids are navigating an entirely new way of being in school, and COVID-19 cases are rising. This is not the time to dissolve government, to leave a province leaderless for over a month in hopes of securing more power for yourself. This is a time when we need our ministers of health and education to be working alongside our public health officer to do all they can to protect the health and well-being of the people of British Columbia.”

Elizabeth May, the Green Party parliamentary leader and one of two sitting Green MPs along with Paul Manly of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, endorsed Furstenau and was pleased to see her win the leadership role.

“Congratulations to members of the Green Party of British Columbia for choosing an experienced and extraordinary leader,” she said in a statment released by the Green Party of Canada.” Thanks to Kim Darwin and Cam Brewer for a spirited race. With John Horgan mulling over a snap election, I am so pleased that the B.C. Greens will have a leader who can take on the B.C. NDP from her place as a leader in the legislature.”

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