Sonia Furstenau column: Now the time to make changes for the better

This coronavirus has given us opportunity to identify what matters most in our day-to-day lives.

By Sonia Furstenau

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 arrived in our province, I met with a members of the Public Health Association of BC to hear from them about the most pressing public health issues of the day.

During that enlightening discussion I recognized that everything that matters in a functioning society, and everything that motivates me in my work — like a reliable supply of potable drinking water for all communities, public education in all its forms, food security, world-class public transportation, financial stability, environmental health, and trusted health services — sits under the umbrella of public health. I didn’t know then that COVID-19 would put this theory to the test, but this coronavirus has made it crystal clear: public health must be the lens through which all governments make policy decisions.

For example, last week, the B.C. government published a report from its Emerging Economy Task Force. The report’s strategic priorities read like the BC Green Party’s platform in 2017: embracing innovation, leveraging B.C.’s green economy, building a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, ensuring an effective ecosystem, and demonstrating public sector leadership. These priorities shine even more brightly when you consider how, when viewed through the public health lens, they would help us weather another pandemic like COVID-19.

As an MLA, my time is divided between advocating for practical solutions for today and envisioning aspirational solutions for the future. Working with the BC Green Caucus staff at the legislature, we have identified the types of actions the provincial government needs to take now if we are to move forward with policies that build on the lessons we have learned these past few months. One example is local job creation. We are identifying jobs that are relevant to communities of all sizes, and matched to existing skill sets and workforces, and have long-term benefits to social and environmental challenges in the community. Retrofitting homes and buildings, for example, would create job opportunities matched with beneficial outcomes.

This coronavirus has given us an opportunity to identify what matters most to us in our day-to-day lives. When I envision the next decade and next generation, I look for ways to make what matters most to us become common, ordinary, and expected. How can we get more time with the people we love? A four day work week. How can we help our family and friends work in community instead of away? By prioritizing small and medium-sized businesses. How can we build on the environmental benefits this great pause has offered Mother Earth? We give communities decision-making power over their natural resources. How can we build on all the innovation we have witnessed in the accommodation of COVID-19? Leaders must listen to scientists and experts, and make evidence-based decisions, as Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix have demonstrated so well.

This is the time to consider how to make these solutions a reality because while they might have once seemed aspirational, now, from a public health perspective, they have become a matter of urgency.

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.


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

Just Posted

Duncan model makes quarter finals in ‘Maxim’ magazine contest

Brandee Peart among top one per cent left in competition

Summer wilderness photo contest opens

Mosaic Forest Management launched its annual photo contest on July 1.

Drivesmart column: What does a traffic cop do?

I think most people see a traffic cop as someone who writes speeding tickets

Lake Flashback: Logging history, leaks, the EN and more

Do you remember these stories from back in the day?

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Suspicious fire quenched before reaching gunpowder in Nanaimo’s historic Bastion

Probe underway in basement blaze that erupted near where powder stored to fire signature cannons

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Fisherman snags barracuda off Vancouver Island in rare encounter

Ferocious fish, not native to Canada, was netted and released in Alberni Inlet

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Most Read