Issues in the Cowichan Valley, and across southern Vancouver Island, will be harder to ignore if, or when, the NDP form a government with the support of the Green Party, according to Sonia Furstenau.
Furstenau, the Green MLA for the Cowichan Valley, said that with most of the southern Island represented by opposition MLAs for years as the Liberals held power, it was largely “left out” of the government’s priorities.
She said that with four MLAs from the south Island area, including herself, as part of the negotiating team that could see an NDP government formed within weeks, the region will be better represented and have more say in decisions impacting its citizens than it has in some time.
“I think we’ll see local issues brought forward and addressed much more effectively than in the past,” she said.
“The Green Party has agreed to work with an NDP government and I think we can accomplish a lot. But it’s important that people understand that it wouldn’t be a coalition government as the Greens have agreed to only support an NDP government in confidence votes. We’ll support good legislation from any party in the legislature.”
Doug Routley, the long-time NDP MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, agreed that an NDP minority government supported by the Greens would be good for the south Island and all of B.C.
He said it would provide an opportunity for both parties to demonstrate that a proportional representative government would work, and be beneficial for all.
As part of their agreement to form a new government, both the Greens and the NDP decided that legislation would be introduced to hold a referendum on proportional representation in the fall of 2018.
“We would have less dictatorial rule by the premier, and all parties in the legislature will be able to bring forth legislation and work towards support for it from the other parties,” he said.
“The people of B.C. would finally have a government that is truly committed to working for them.”
Premier Christy Clark announced on May 30 that she intends to try to stay on as British Columbia’s premier, despite the province’s NDP and Green Party leaders making a pact that would give the New Democrats the support of a majority of the MLAs in the legislature.
But she also admitted she was likely to lose a confidence vote shortly after the new legislature meets later this month and if so, would resign as premier, leaving the way open for an NDP minority government.
If, or when, the NDP government forms and the dust from the election finally settles, Furstenau said one of her main priorities in the Cowichan Valley is to deal with the ongoing soil dumping issues in the riding’s south end.
Furstenau was one of the main players in the successful efforts earlier this year to shut down the contaminated soil landfill above Shawnigan Lake, owned by Cobble Hill Holdings.
She said there are other soil dumping operations in the area that she wants dealt with, as well as ensuring that all the soil that was dumped at the Cobble Hill Holdings’ site is removed.
Furstenau said a section of the agreement between the Green Party and the NDP calls for improving environmental assessments for such operations.
“It also calls for reviewing and reforming the failed professional-reliance model, like the model that was used in the Shawnigan Lake soil dump, that allowed secret agreements to be made during the application process,” she said.
“I want to ensure that proper environmental protection practices are an important part of any decision making regarding all projects that involve water in the Valley and in the province.”
As for Routley’s priorities in Nanaimo-North Cowichan in a new government, he said a top one is to reduce costs to families through the rescinding of MSP premiums and other policies, increased investment in classrooms and the establishment of carbon taxes that would favour alternative energies and retrofits of current systems to make them more energy efficient.
He said he will also work towards the re-establishment of the E&N Railway and curtailing the export of raw logs from the region and province.
“The people in Nanaimo-North Cowichan will have a government that will work for them rather than the wealthy elites,” Routley said.
“The NDP caucus has 41 members and many of them, including myself, have been around for a very long time and are ready to govern.”