Sonia Furstenau

Sonia Furstenau column: COVID-19 requires humility from government

Governing during a crisis is an unenviable task.

By Sonia Furstenau

My thoughts keep returning to trust these days.

It’s the essential connection between government and people, and it’s all the more important during a crisis. In the first wave of COVID-19 in B.C., there was an exceptional level of collaboration across party lines, and a great deal of communication with the public. Remember the Facebook town halls with MLAs and local health officers? Remember the daily briefings from the health minister and Dr. Henry?

Things have shifted since the fall, when we went to an election just as the second wave of the pandemic was building. We now have less collaboration, fewer press conferences, and fewer opportunities for questions to be asked of the government on the record. Since the legislature adjourned at the end of June, we’ve had only two weeks of legislative session. The spring session, which should be starting now, has been delayed until March 1. Over the eight months between the beginning of July and the end of February, there will have been only seven days during which there was a question period in B.C.

Governing during a crisis is an unenviable task. It requires levels of nimbleness, flexibility, responsiveness, and transparency that are unusual for governments and bureaucracies. I have a huge amount of empathy and compassion for everyone — from the premier to ministry staff — who is involved in the day-to-day decision-making that has to happen, while the landscape shifts relentlessly.

We all have to be asking ourselves: how can we be doing better? We need a mindset that does not act from a place of defending past decisions, but looks to find ways to improve future decisions by recognizing that none of us is perfect in our decision-making, particularly in the midst of an ongoing crisis.

What we need more of from government is a habit of humility. COVID-19 has been humbling for all of us. It shone a light on so many issues and challenges that need our attention, from inequality and systemic racism to the inadequacies of our own manufacturing sector. Being in government doesn’t mean that you have all the answers; it means that you are responsible for continuously asking hard questions, and relentlessly assesses how to improve, recognizing that we’re all going to make mistakes.

Perhaps most importantly, it means recognizing that all of the decisions made today shape the future, for better or worse. Our recovery from COVID-19 must include planning how we will avert the next crises: the climate emergency, worsening inequality, the growing need for mental health supports. I will continue to approach my work always thinking about the future we need to be building for our children and their children. I will always be coming back to the debt that we owe to them. I hope that all my colleagues in the B.C. Legislature will also keep this debt front of mind over the next months and years, because the decisions made today will have repercussions for generations to come.

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.

BC governmentBC GreenColumn

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

The frequent disruptions to water service in Chemainus are expected to be a lot less after North Cowichan replaces the Smiley Road water main. (File photo)
Smiley Road water main in Chemainus to be replaced

$890,000 project expected to be completed this spring

Cowichan Tribes open up vaccinations for members who are 40 and older. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes opens up vaccinations for members 18 and older

Vaccination sessions to be held over weekend

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

The Cowichan Valley Regional District will use fire hydrants to flush water systems in Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake and Bald Mountain in March. (Robert Barron/Gazette)
Water system flushing in Cowichan Lake communities in March may cause discolouration warns CVRD

Water pipes in Youbou, Honeymoon Bay, Mescahie Lake, and Bald Mountain targeted

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read