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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FURSTENAU – We owe it to young British Columbians and to future generations to seize this moment and not let all the sacrifices of this past year go by and amount to nothing

 

This week in the Legislature the NDP Government gave its annual throne speech, identifying its priorities for spending in the budget, which will come out next week.

My colleague Adam Olsen and I had an opportunity to respond to the throne speech. In my view, the priorities identified by this government do not build on what we have learned in this pandemic, and do not honour the sacrifices all of us have made. What British Columbians need at this moment is a shared sense of common purpose, not only for navigating this third wave of COVID-19 but for a more just and equitable future.

 

In my speech, I refer to three books that I've been reading lately … Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens, George Monbiot's Out of the Wreckage and Rutger Bregman's Humankind. All three of these books have really interesting takes on the role that stories play in what makes us human and the role that stories play in defining the realities that we live in. All of them also identify research that shows that, ultimately, humans are cooperative by nature.

 

I think we can reflect on this in our own experiences and our own lives. We can look at, for example, a year ago, at the beginning of this pandemic, the willingness, the enthusiasm that we had to come together, to take care of each other, to make sure that we were doing our best for our neighbours, for our friends and, ultimately, for people we'd never meet.

 

And yet, the throne speech on Monday could have been delivered in 2019. It didn't recognize that we could take what we've learned about how people cooperated during this pandemic, about all the ways in which community members and organizations worked together without needing to compete for funding, about how constituents reported being safer and more connected to their neighbours as a result of supporting each other during the pandemic.

We can change the story. We owe it to young British Columbians and to future generations to seize this moment and to not let all the sacrifices of this past year go by and amount to nothing, to revert back to a little tinkering on the edges of policies and legislation that lead to no meaningful change.

 

People want to hear from us what's possible. They want to feel inspired by a vision for the future that gets us that sense of common purpose again, that we can actually look at individual sacrifices because it contributes to a greater common good, that if my neighbour is doing better, that's good for me. If there's less inequality, that's a better society for us to live in.

Now, more than ever, we need a government that will step up to meet the urgency of this moment with a clear vision and a bold plan for our shared future.

You can watch my full speech here

 

 

Sonia Furstenau is MLA for Cowichan Valley, and Leader of the BC Greens

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