Sonia and Stella
In this series, we talk with elected representatives from across BC, getting to know them and the issues they care about most.
In this entry, we talk with Cowichan Valley MLA and BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau.
Sonia Furstenau Quick Facts:
Hero: My parents - they instilled me with a sense of duty as a citizen
Pets: Stella - a little Maltese Chihuahua poodle terrier
Favourite food: Sushi, Italian, and Indian
Interesting fact: Stella's siblings with Adam Olsen's dog. I've also taken to knitting dolls of people close to me, including my family, staff, and yes, Adam Olsen!
How did you become involved in politics?
Sonia: Soon after moving to Shawnigan Lake, I learned the provincial government of the time was granting a permit for a contaminated soil dump above a protected water shed - endangering the area's water supply. I spent 4 years trying to stop that permit, and eventually it did get revoked.
It gave me insight into the problems with decision making in BC, especially with land use, and motivated me to run first locally for regional district, then provincially.
Sonia protesting the contaminated soil dump
What do you consider the most important issue for BC?
Sonia: I ask myself the following questions: How do we achieve health and well-being for
people? How do we ensure people’s needs are met? Are everybody’s needs being met?
We’re connected to the natural world and environment around us, and if we don’t have a healthy environment - clean water, healthy air and food - we can’t meet people's needs or have vibrant, inclusive communities.
In order to have community health, we also need to trust our governments and institutions, and it's so important to me that I build that trust in everything I do as a public representative.
What are your goals for 2022?
Sonia: As an MLA, it's to continue serving the people of Cowichan Valley and the people who reach out to us.
As the leader of a party, it comes back to service. In a 2-party opposition system, how do we best serve the people of BC?
One thing we focus on is bringing forward concrete solutions and not just criticisms - there always needs to be solutions presented. We're always open to a more collaborative, consensus building approach.
What do you say to the people who think the BC Green Party's just about the environment?
Sonia: We start our policies and platforms with health and well-being at the center – this is the main pillar.
We recognize that you can’t have a healthy society unless the people in it are healthy and their needs are being met.
Sonia believes there is a fundamental connection between people and the environment
We also recognize the connection between people and the environment, and this foundational understanding of interconnectedness is what sets us apart from the other parties.
The BC Green Party's about much more than the environment, but the environment's a fundamental consideration.
With how busy you are, how do you ensure that you stay connected to your constituency?
Sonia: A big part of it's teamwork.
There's the constituency team - Cole, Julie, Tricia, and Bea - and I'm always in touch with them and getting feedback about what the key issues being raised are, who's reaching out, and how we can help.
When we see issues consistently coming up, like housing and problems with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, I bring these issues into the legislature to ensure they're addressed.
There's also the party team – there's no way that one person can do it all on their own. It's about collaboration and working together.
What's special about the Cowichan Valley to you?
Sonia: I moved here 10 years ago. I was offered a teaching job in Shawnigan Lake, and the plan was to live here for a year and then move back to Victoria, but fell we in love with the area and have been here ever since.
There's such a sense of community and interconnectedness here. The culture of the Cowichan Tribes, and how it's integrated into broader community, is so special. It permeates the valley and makes it a wonderful place.
We also have the ocean, amazing mountains, Shawnigan Lake, wineries, and incredible local food culture.
What are you proudest of in your career?
Sonia: Maintaining myself and my integrity in the roles I've been in. I want to come out of politics as a better version of the person who went in.
I really care about integrity and always hold myself to the sleep test - if something's keeping me awake at night, I know I have to fix it.
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org