B.C. Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau has launched her expected bid to replace Andrew Weaver as leader, taking aim at the NDP energy policies her three-member caucus has supported.
Furstenau wasted no time in targeting the B.C. NDP government for carrying on the B.C. Liberal policy of what she called “massive subsidies” to a liquefied natural gas industry, and a third dam on the Peace River that will help to electrify operations in the vast northeast B.C. shale gas fields.
With Weaver now sitting as an independent MLA and Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen serving as interim leader, Furstenau emerged Monday as the first leadership candidate. Staging her announcement in a trendy shared-work space in downtown Victoria, her remarks reflected Weaver’s advice that the all-Vancouver Island Green caucus needs a Lower Mainland leader. Urban issues emerged as her central theme, although her knowledge of Metro Vancouver bridges is a work in progress.
“We spent $4 million to take the tolls off the Port Mann and Lower Mainland bridges [Golden Ears Bridge], while much needed transit infrastructure that will reduce congestion and emissions goes unbuilt,” Furstenau said. “Instead, for three quarters of that amount, we could build the Broadway subway extension to UBC. For half, we could supply 1,000 electric buses. For about a third, we could build a SkyTrain from Fleetwood to Langley.”
Furstenau targeted the central industrial strategy of both the previous B.C. Liberal government and the current NDP minority under Premier John Horgan, development of liquefied natural gas exports across northern B.C. The Site C dam, now more than half built, has become an NDP project that promises to make LNG development cleaner by powering upstream gas extraction and processing.
“We could stop putting good money after bad with the Site C dam and move to a modern system of small-scale, distributed renewable power that would be far more efficient, far less environmentally destructive and create economic opportunities that were more evenly distributed throughout the province,” Furstenau said.
Weaver, the first Green elected to provincial-level office in North America, moved up his plans to retire as party leader this month as he deals with an illness in his family. He has indicated that while he will complete his term as an independent Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA, he intends to meet the terms of the “confidence and supply” agreement with the NDP to vote in favour of its budget this spring and keep the minority government going.
Weaver spoke out repeatedly against Horgan’s decision to drop tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, a popular move that many credit for the NDP seat gains in the Surrey and Maple Ridge areas that resulted in the current government.