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Green theme toward BC election 2024: Greens need recovery, Conservatives gunning for the right, NDP on repeat

Pre-election momentum pitch from BC Greens | How will they hold on?

sonia furstenau, adam olsen, bc greens
BC Green Party leadership Sonia Furstenau (Party Leader) and Adam Olsen (House Leader), Fall 2023. [Composite - Island Social Trends]

Saturday December 9, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Reminding folks in BC that the BC Greens currently have just two MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, that head-count was used to underscore what had been achieved to the benefit of British Columbians in the Fall Session that wrapped up last week.

The final session of 2023 came to a close last week.

sonia furstenau, adam olsen, bc greens
BC Green Party leadership Sonia Furstenau (Party Leader) and Adam Olsen (House Leader), Fall 2023. [Composite – Island Social Trends]

Saying they “are a force” in the BC Legislature, Sonia Furstenau said that she and BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen held ground for the progressive left. Their goal is to achieve their vision of “putting the well-being of people and the planet at the centre of legislative decision-making”. 

To expand beyond ‘just two’ MLAs, BC Greens will need a certain type of candidate, and it’s a tough search. They tend to attract single-issue candidates (particularly around health care and environment) which makes it a tough reach for usually first-time candidates to broaden their reach in a short ramp-up to campaigning and the intensity of a provincial election.

As well, BC Green candidates need to be of the temperament that they would still shift their lifepath to serve in elected office but likely in a small minority-standing party.

Gearing up for Election 2024:

Political-watchers see the next BC provincial election on the horizon (currently scheduled for October 19, 2024); party positioning is a matter of discussion.

Pundits presently see the BC Conservatives a counterforce to the NDP majority; the ‘new right’ presence as brought forth by the BC Conservatives in recent months in BC will either continue to gain momentum for their own electoral success in 2024, or at least split the right-leaning vote outcome between their party and the BC United Party candidates.

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BC United has been trying to straddle all the government-led issues by focusing on pinpointed responses to broader issues — such as drug-use in parks as a safety issue, and pointing out the way that new housing legislation will not address housing affordability. Their true strength as a political option to the NDP has yet to be honed or polished.

Regardless of which way the right-leaning vote goes in the next provincial election, the NDP will likely hold onto most of their seats and possibly enjoy a vote-split of BC Conservative and BC United across the aisle. Though more BC Conservatives and fewer BC United would probably create a stronger overall opposition than is currently seen in the political workings of the chamber.

The NDP’s election season ground-game is notoriously strong. Even if they lose a handful of seats they will probably still hold a majority after the October 2024 election. This might be called ‘NDP on repeat’ (you heard it here first).

It should be noted that the election date is scheduled for October 19, 2024 but can still be changed if the premier sees political advantage to doing so. But with a solid majority now, it’s unlikely Eby will want to mess with that, as more NDP-strong legislation is coming in the February-May 2024 session.

SOGI in Election 2024:

Political gloves are already coming off… here’s just one issue. The first question asked by the Leader of the Conservative Party of BC in the house this fall was about SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) in schools, which produced a spitfire response from the premier.

Premier David Eby said this week that he is “really disappointed in the Conservative Party of BC and their embracing of these conspiracy theories (about SOGI in schools), that have parents worried about what’s happening in schools”, adding “it is entirely irresponsible of the Conservative Party of BC to be focused on trying to achieve political power by demonizing teachers and school librarians”.

Though arguably it’s not teachers and librarians but the overall curriculum which is the government’s responsibility. A petition is underway in the education minister’s riding to try and push out that one NDP MLA and make a strong political statement for the right.

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NDP Premier David Eby and BC Conservative Leader John Rustad, in the legislature October 3, 2023. [Hansard / IST composite]

Current seat count:

The current seat count in the BC Legislative Assembly is 87; that will increase to 93 as a result of boundary changes for the 2024 election (in response to population increases).

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Police Amendment Act (Bill 36) was passed in the BC Legislative Assembly on Oct 25, 2023. [Hansard]
  • The NDP currently have elected MLAs in 56 ridings (64.3% of the house) and have used their majority to push through a great deal of legislation (particularly this fall, to deal with the housing crisis). The NDP has led government since July 2017 — under the Supply and Confidence Agreement with the BC Greens to 2020, then as a full majority after the September 2020 snap election that was called by then-Premier John Horgan; thereafter, David Eby became Premier in November 2022.
  • The BC United Party (formerly called the BC Liberals) currently has 26 seats (29.9% of the house) but their recent name change in April 2023 has not yet seen a rebranding success which has left the electorate a bit confused.
  • The BC Greens have two seats — Furstenau and Olsen (about 2.3% of the house).
  • The BC Conservatives have two seats — both held by defectors from the former BC Liberals (Party Leader John Rustad and Bruce Banman who previously also served as mayor of Abbotsford).

West shore will have three ridings:

On south Vancouver Island, the new boundary configurations will see three west shore ridings in the 2024 provincial election (up from the current two which are Langford-Juan de Fuca and Esquimalt-Metchosin):

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Langford and Highlands will be combined into one provincial electoral area. [BC Electoral Boundaries Commission map 2022]
  • Langford-Highlands (49,110 population) – includes Langford and Highlands
  • Juan de Fuca-Malahat (44,980 population) – includes Sooke, Juan de Fuca, Metchosin and Malahat
  • Esquimalt-Colwood (58,356 population) – includes Esquimalt, Colwood, View Royal and Vic West

The new riding composition will create a significant shift for the political culture and the socioeconomic goals of residents, neighbourhoods and businesses in the various municipal areas within those provincial ridings.

Langford-Highlands will see a heavily urban approach, Juan de Fuca-Malahat will become distinctly more rural by including Metchosin but with fast-growing Sooke at the core, and Esquimalt-Colwood is inching its way toward downtown city issues by including Vic West and therefore likely Esquimalt more so than before.

The BC Greens as they see their role:

“For the third straight session, the BC NDP shut down debate and withheld information on bills that transform our communities. Unfortunately, actively preventing opposition MLAs from doing the important job of critiquing new laws has become a reality in the legislature,” said Furstenau in an email to supporters this weekend.

“Still, with your support, “Adam and I did everything a two-person caucus could to hold the government accountable on some of BC’s most pressing issues.” Furstenau itemizes the BC Greens as having achieved the following:

  • Spoke on 11 different issues, spotlighting affordability, environment, healthcare, safety for our most vulnerable, and housing.
  • Asked a total of 72 questions in the 2023 Question Period and gave over 60 speeches.
  • Handled over 20 different bills – and in late November, we spoke in committee to improve Bill 44, Bill 45, Bill 46, Bill 47, and Bill 48 in just two days.
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Festival of Trees at SEAPARC Leisure Complex in Sooke, Nov 21 to Dec 27, 2023.

BC Greens on housing, climate, child and family welfare:

While ideologically leaning left, the NDP is essentially now a centrist government in BC. That’s the best way to hold onto power — not just for its own sake but to deliver for the broadest range of people on the broadest possible range of issues. The NDP Government Budget 2024 — coming February 22, 2024 — will indicate how they plan to take the province forward beyond the next election.

In their self-prescribed role as speaking for the progressive left, the BC Greens make a vigorous case for their stand on housing, climate and family:

Addressing the housing affordability crisis

“Actively addressing housing affordability by focusing on core housing needs, people whose housing is insecure, inadequate, or costs them more than 30% of their annual income.” [Editor’s note: Arguably, none of the new BC housing legislation will make housing or renting truly less affordable, even though supply will increase.]

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BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen discussing Bill 46 in the legislative assembly Nov 29, 2023. [Hansard]

“Advocated for immediate investments in non-market housing; the province must begin to treat housing as a human right.” [Editor’s Note: the BC NDP states already that ‘houses are for people, not investors’.]

Continuing to lead on climate action

“Only two MLAs in the legislature who are taking climate action seriously,” say the BC Greens. [Editor’s Note: BC NDP has a full climate policy and arguably about three ministries dealing with aspects of climate change.]

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Parliamentary Secretary for Environment, Amandeep Singh, emceed the BC government announcement in Beacon Hill Park on Oct 26, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

“Calling on government to end subsidies for oil and gas companies, set a timeline for reducing fracked gas production, halt old-growth logging, and ban fossil fuel advertising,” say the BC Greens.

“Asked important questions about LNG expansion, Site C, the continued logging of old growth, and the protection of bear dens and the decimation of spotted owls,” say the BC Greens. [Editor’s note: The NDP since Horgan’s time in office have seen the tax-revenue benefits of LNG and logging. The NDP has tried to keep BC Hydro rate increases under control.]

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Demanding better child and family welfare

Arguably, it has been mostly the BC Green MLAs who have voiced important details about the child and family welfare system in the BC Legislative Assembly this past year. Olsen has been asking for the resignation of Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean and Deputy Minister Allison Bond, as part of a push for change. [Editor’s note: Statement from Minister of Children and Family Development, July 18, 2023]

“We have been relentless in demanding accountability from the minister and the minister’s team responsible for child protection. The child welfare system not only fails to protect children, it is resulting in severe neglect and death,” say the BC Greens. “We pressed the minister to take meaningful responsibility; the system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.” [Editor’s note: MCFD Dean has been guiding toward more Indigenous children staying with their families and enhancing supports for foster families and aged-out former foster children, but perhaps not quickly enough.]

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Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been producing political analysis through various publications since 2008 on south Vancouver Island.

mary p brooke, headshot, editor
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke

Mary P Brooke founded and operated three print publications in the west shore (MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020) before launching Island Social Trends online in mid-2020 at IslandSocialTrends.ca — all of these published through Brookeline Publishing House Inc.

Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. covered BC’s COVID news conferences daily from 2020 into 2022. She now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery while operating her publishing business in the west shore.

Ms Brooke ran for school trustee in SD62 (Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Highlands) in 2022. In 2023 she was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation journalism award for her contribution to community through journalism.

Island Social Trends will be launching a bi-weekly print/PDF edition in 2024. Advertisers welcome.