B.C. Green MLA Sonia Furstenau has been elected as the new leader of the party, winning the vote on the second ballot.
The MLA for Cowichan Valley and House Leader in the B.C. Green Caucus will replace interim leader Adam Olsen, effective immediately.
Furstenau won 52.4 per cent of the votes on the second ballot.
Former Kamloops provincial Green candidate Dan Hines, who publicly backed Furstenau, was excited to hear she was chosen as leader.
He said he thinks Furstenau will help broaden the perception the B.C. Green Party as one that's focused on more than just the environment.
"I think what Sonia indicates is a larger movement towards social justice, more compassionate politics," Hines said of Furstenau's impact on the party.
He noted Furstenau's background as a regional director and work on grassroots issues as reasons he voted for her.
"I've been so impressed with how authentic she is and her integrity and how consistent she's been since she was elected," Hines said.
In her acceptance speech streamed live on YouTube, Furstenau said she’s excited to grow the party and keep bringing change to B.C., noting the need for more diversity in politics and bipartisanship.
In deciding whether to run she said she sought the advice of her brother, who said she’s a symbol of something different in politics — of hope for what’s possible, particularly for young women.
“That is not a small responsibility, nor one that I take likely,” Furstenau said.
She said being a female leader in this country seems unachievable, noting there are few women in provincial leadership roles.
She said “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.“
The B.C. Greens put principal ahead of politics to collaborate with the other parties even though we don’t agree with them on everything,” Furstenau said, noting she’s come to cherish the relationships she’s built with MLAs from other parties.
She said this isn’t a common practice in the BC legislature and the political structures in place reinforce hyper-partisanship and the myth that “this is just how politics is done.”
Furstenau also slammed the notion of Premier John Horgan calling an early election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence of this partisanship having “reared its ugly head” once more.“
To John Horgan I say, you have a responsibility to govern, not play politics,” she said, adding this not a time to dissolve government and displace the ministers working alongside health officals.
Furstenau emphasized the need for transit, affordable housing and child care investments in building the economy as well as improving food security, decriminalizing drug possession, improving emergency preparedness and ensuring all communities have access to fundamentals of life such as clean drinking water.
“The BC Green Party sees the world and reality for what it is today,” she said.
Hines lauded Furstenau's ability to work across the aisle as a valuable asset given the polarizing nature of today's politics.
Kamloops South Thompson MLA Todd Stone told KTW he congratulates Furstenau on her victory and that he looks forward to working with her.
"I've always found her to be a very thoughtful, very knowledgeable, very passionate individual who has been a strong advocate for the constituents she represents in the Cowichan Valley," Stone said.
Stone described Furstenau as someone who "has always been straight up with members of all the parties across the legislative chamber," adding that he too strives to work with members of other parties, noting his call on the government last year to address youth vaping.
Stone also said he hopes Furstenau will impress upon her coalition partner John Horgan that it's important to continue focusing on the health and well-being of British Columbians during the pandemic rather than calling an early election.
Kamloops North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said he's gotten to know Furstenau through their time together on the finance committee and believes she'll do a fine job as a leader.
Addressing her remarks on bipartisanship, Milobar said time will tell what direction the party takes on policy and how flexible they will be to move certain legislation forward.
"Especially when you're the third party, it's probably a wise place to be that you're willing to try to work with the other parties to try and advance things," Milobar said.
Furstenau was previously an area director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, a teacher and non-profit administrator.
She has been involved in climate and social advocacy for more than 20 years.
After reopening its leadership contest in June, the B.C. Green Party ran a three-month-long leadership contest ending in an eight-day voting period.
The party selected its new leader with 85 per cent (4,659 ballots) of a total 5,478 members and supporters.The B.C. Green Party used a ranked ballot, where 2,318 votes were required to reach the 50 per cent + 1 threshold.
Furstenau lead the three candidates on the first ballot with 2,197 votes and 47.41 per cent of the vote. Cam Brewer was second with 1,916 votes and 41.35 per cent of the vote while Kim Darwin had 521 votes, good for 11.24 per cent and was eliminated.
On the second round, Furstenau won with 52.4 per cent and 2,428 votes compared to Brewer’s 2,127 votes and 45.9 per cent.