Sonia Furstenau is a busy woman, and has been for some time.
Not only is Furstenau the MLA for the Cowichan Valley, she was also chosen as the leader of the province’s Green Party just last month after a long leadership campaign, and mere days before the provincial election was called.
But while, as party leader, Furstenau will be expected to pay attention to provincial matters during and after the election, she said her main priority as MLA has been, and always will be, the Cowichan Valley.
“As MLA, my job is to serve this community and I will work hard for the people of Cowichan if re-elected, as I always have,” she said.
“In the past three and a half years, I have worked with the community on important accomplishments like securing funding to build a new school and new hospital, mitigating the impacts of the opioid crisis, finding funding to start work on raising the weir in Lake Cowichan, and supporting families struggling with the child welfare system. Every day as an MLA, I was reminded of what makes the Cowichan Valley so special; its community.”
But Furstenau said, despite numerous successes of the governing coalition of the NDP and Greens since the last election in 2016, there is still a lot of work to be done in the province and the Valley.
She said work must continue to address poverty and inequality, the homeless problem and the ongoing opioid crisis in Cowichan.
“Ultimately, we must aim to provide the services people need, whether that’s support in finding work, keeping their houses, helping with their mental health or ensuring educational opportunities are provided,” Furstenau said.
“Currently, there are a lot of cracks in support services, and many people have a hard time getting basic services that they expect from their government. For example, the income support systems for those with disabilities are not as successful as they need to be. We need the support systems to help these people got out of poverty and not entrench them in it.”
As for affordable housing, Furstenau acknowledged that while efforts are underway that will soon see more units of affordable housing in the Valley, more urgent efforts are required.
“There are hundreds of people in the Valley who need affordable housing, particularly among the Cowichan Tribes,” she said.
“We also need to focus on creating and sustaining healthy and sustainable environments. Many people are concerned about logging practices and we need to modernize the industry, not just to help the forests, but the communities themselves.”