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Sonia Furstenau: We need a vision for a healthy, affordable and sustainable B.C. now

There is a growing story that government is incapable of meeting people’s needs, that government is powerless in solving the issues impacting our communities. I don’t accept this.
Photo: BC Government

There is a growing story that government is incapable of meeting people’s needs, that government is powerless in solving the issues impacting our communities. 

I don’t accept this. It is undeniable that British Columbians are navigating compounding and overlapping crises – climate disasters, a crumbling health-care system, unaffordable housing, rising inequality and the high cost of living. 

However, I don’t accept the story that government is unable to solve these problems. I am invested in a different story where, thanks to thriving government institutions and services, everyone is housed, there’s food on the table and people are living in caring, connected communities. One where public health care and education, non-market housing, libraries, parks – so much of what makes our neighbourhoods, communities and society truly vibrant and rich – are safeguarded so that people can flourish. 

To meet our province’s most pressing issues, now more than ever we need government to propose innovative solutions and to invest in the services and institutions that create stability, well-being and opportunity for people. 

In 2022 the BC NDP made some incremental positive steps, including eliminating age restrictions on rental communities for those under 55 and reversing their decision on autism funding. But they failed to put forward a visionary legislative agenda, or a vision for a stronger, healthier province. 

While his government reported a $5.7 billion surplus this year, we are still waiting for Premier David Eby to raise the payments for people with disabilities, to commit to funding and building non-market housing, to protect our universal health-care system from increasing privatization or take courageous action on the poisoned drug crisis. We’re still waiting for the NDP to demonstrate meaningful climate action, or curb old-growth logging, or match the $55 million for conservation financing from the federal government that could create sustainable, longterm economic opportunities for First Nations in B.C. 

Unfortunately, the BC NDP has been treading water over the past two years while the crises have deepened. We can’t afford business as usual; we must think outside the box to address the issues that are impacting B.C. That’s why the BC Green caucus has taken a constructive approach to opposition. 

In 2022, we proposed tangible solutions to our province’s most pressing issues. Our call to support family doctors in the spring helped doctors earn a hard-won victory for better funding. We called for free transit during the summer to help alleviate the high cost of living and to promote public transit. When gas prices soared and corporations were making record profits, we called for a windfall profits tax. To improve health and well-being, increase productivity and create more jobs, we promoted the four-day work week across B.C. We have continued to call for the inclusion of mental health services as part of our universal health care, and for the creation of community health centres across B.C. so that everyone in our province can be assured of access to essential primary health care. We urged the BC NDP to improve access to a safe supply of drugs, and we remain dedicated to advocating for the government to safeguard our environment and embed climate action in all of its decision making. 

The decisions this government makes now will shape how livable the future is for next generations. Looking ahead to 2023, I hope to see Premier Eby’s government take actions that match their words. I hope the BC NDP moves beyond political messaging and towards real governance and leadership. In the new year, my colleague Adam Olsen and I will continue to hold the government accountable. We will push for bold leadership and – as ever – will be ready to work across party lines to address the issues most impacting British Columbians. 

We are confined by our limited imagination only. With strong leadership and solutions-oriented approaches, collectively we can create a future where people’s needs are met, and their well-being is at the centre of decision making. I’m never going to give up on that vision for this province. ■ 

Sonia Furstenau is leader of the BC Green Party.