B.C. Green leadership candidate Sonia Furstenau needs to put B.C. NDP government on the hot seat

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      Yesterday (January 30), Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau bagged a big endorsement in her campaign to become the next leader of the B.C. Greens.

      Victoria mayor Lisa Helps said that she couldn't think of a better person to lead the party.

      "Sonia is thoughtful, intentional, collaborative and most importantly, she really listens and can bring people together," Helps said in a statement.

      The Victoria mayor is not a member of the B.C. Greens, though she is one of the greenest elected officials in Canada.

      The seal of approval from Helps just might be enough to ensure a Furstenau victory when the B.C. Greens choose their next leader in June.

      Furstenau was elected in 2017 in a formerly safe NDP riding after battling a provincial decision to allow a toxic soil dump above Shawnigan Lake's watershed.

      At her campaign launch on January 26, Furstenau was joined by six other endorsers, including Metchosin councillor Andy Mackinnon and astrophysicist Anita Kuttner, the well-regarded former federal Green candidate in Burnaby North–Seymour.

      Prior to the endorsement by Helps, Furstenau was already in a good position to win the leadership.

      That's because there are financial barriers for others to enter the race. Anyone who puts their name forward has to pay nonrefundable campaign and application fees of $16,000. In addition, 25 percent of all funds raised through the leadership campaign must go to the B.C. Greens.

      It's an uphill battle for those with lower name recognition than Furstenau, given that there are less than five months to go in the contest.

      Sonia Furstenau launched her leadership campaign with this video.

      Greens have given a big boost to Horgan

      But Furstenau could face a problem in the general election because the B.C. Greens have not vigorously opposed the B.C. NDP government's most controversial measures.

      In 2017, the B.C. Green and B.C. NDP caucuses signed a confidence and supply agreement that didn't stop Premier John Horgan from proceeding with the $10.7-billion farmland-destroying Site C dam.

      Sure, the B.C. Greens have criticized the $40-billion LNG Canada plant and Coastal GasLink pipeline. But they haven't been at the forefront of public protests and they haven't tried to bring the NDP government down over this issue.

      Moreover, the B.C. Greens did not bring forward legislative proposals around environmental assessments that could have given Indigenous people real decision-making power. Had they done this, perhaps they could have helped thwart the $9.3-billion Trans Mountain pipeline project.

      In fact, the B.C. Greens have come across in the public eye as partners of Horgan, even though he sometimes seems less environmentally inclined than former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.

      This partnership was reflected in interim B.C. Green Leader Adam Olsen's statement about a recent Horgan cabinet shuffle. 

      “The B.C. Green caucus welcomes ministers [Bruce] Ralston, [Michelle] Mungall and [Anne] Kang to their new cabinet portfolios, and we look forward to working with them to advance British Columbia into the 2020s,” he said. “B.C.’s economy is primed to capitalize on the opportunities that arise from the emerging economy.'

      Olsen remarked on the removal of the name "technology" from Ralston's former ministry, which was turned over to Mungall, but not in a seriously critical way.

      "We have a unique opportunity in this province to harness innovation to build a resilient and sustainable economy—we cannot let this pass us by,” Olsen added.

      What have the B.C. Greens got in return for this partnership?

      Admittedly, there's been good progress on addressing fish farms on the migratory routes for wild salmon. There's more due diligence in environmental assessments by professional experts. And the NDP government banned the hunting of grizzly bears.

      But a resilient and sustainable economy? From a government led by Horgan? Come on.

      Premier John Horgan's warm relationship with former B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver reinforced public perceptions that the Greens are partners with the New Democrats.

      This is a premier who cost the provincial treasury hundreds of millions by abolishing bridge tolls, discouraged distributed energy generation, and offered $6 billion in incentives to an LNG industry that will likely be pulverized by the rapid adoption of solar and wind energy around the world. (LNG prices have fallen dramatically, raising serious questions about the nascent B.C. industry's economic viability.)

      Meanwhile, the NDP government's legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets don't kick in until 2030, likely long after Horgan has left office. 

      As Straight contributor Martyn Brown has written, it's a whole lot of hot air. The requirement for emissions-free new vehicle sales won't come until 2040.

      And Horgan, like his friend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, hasn't offered a peep of protest to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' glowing forecast of sharply growing oil production in Canada.

      According to CAPP, we'll see an additional 1.27 million barrels per day produced by 2035. It's absurd.

      Nor has Horgan expressed criticism or caution about Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd.'s proposed Frontier Project oilsands mine in Alberta, which would emit up to six megatonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

      When it comes to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, environmental activists have been staging occupations of NDP cabinet ministers' offices. Extinction Rebellion protesters have been taking to the streets.

      Yet the B.C. Greens are still talking about building a resilient and sustainable economy with Horgan.

      It would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high.

      What's worse—from the activists' perspective—is that if Furstenau wins the B.C. Green party leadership, she plans on continuing to prop up the Horgan government.

      This is notwithstanding Horgan's decision to put Shell Oil and its corporate partners in the LNG Canada project ahead of the climate.

      Furstenau doesn't have a strong hand, given that there are only two members of the B.C. Green caucus. Olsen isn't helping matters by being so chummy with the government.

      But Furstenau is going to have to seriously fire up her criticism of the premier in a hurry if she's to have any hope of increasing her party's seat count in the next election.

      As things stand now, why would anyone want to run as a B.C. Green candidate if it means being an accomplice to LNG projects and the crushing of a distributed, renewable energy sector across the province?