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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

SONIA FURSTENAU – In classrooms we frequently ask students to ‘show your work’ ... government too must show its work in health policy


A year ago, in my new role as leader of the BC Greens, I reflected on a vision for the future of the province. I identified four goals I think we should be striving for as a province.

  1. People’s needs are met, and everyone can reach their full potential
  2. We protect the natural systems that we depend on for our health and well-being
  3. Our neighbourhoods and communities are vibrant, safe, and resilient
  4. Our government, political systems, and institutions are trustworthy

In the future, I will discuss these pillars in the context of a range of BC’s policy issues. Today I want to focus on public health and healthcare, something we are all thinking about a lot these days.

Since my last newsletter, the omicron variant has spread so rapidly that for the first time in the pandemic, more than a third of Canadians know someone infected (

Case numbers have escalated to the point that BC’s testing capacity has been overwhelmed, and hospitalizations are rising to new highs, at a time when healthcare workers are falling ill themselves.

COVID-19 has shown all of us how the prevention of illness and disease is critical to the whole foundation of our individual and societal well-being. It has also shown that times of crisis turn the cracks in our institutions into chasms, underscoring the need to build resilient institutions and decision-making processes to adapt to and respond to crises quickly.

It is important to recognize that our healthcare system extends beyond the network of hospitals and clinics and beyond the healthcare professionals who staff them. It includes all of us, and the institutions and communities that connect us.

COVID-19 has shown this clearly: it has meant that the decisions made in homes, in workplaces, in schools, and in our wider communities have implications for the health of others, with severe impacts for the most vulnerable in society.

In the early months of the pandemic, we embraced the call to build back better. Let's not abandon this goal to strive for a healthier, more equitable future. A strong healthcare system will be an essential part of achieving this.

How can we better value and support the healthcare staff upon whom we depend – many of whom are overworked, burnt out, and increasingly subjected to workplace violence?

How do we ensure that our systems are transparent and accountable? These are essential for building and maintaining public trust, especially in the context of misinformation.

In classrooms, we frequently ask students to ‘show your work’ in answering a question. This demonstrates that the answer is justified, that there has been a process, and evidence considered. Government too must show its work in health policy by presenting and describing the evidence used to make decisions, and the intention behind those decisions.

Too often, government decisions are made with minimal transparency and little discussion of the goals. The logic appears to be rooted in a fear of making mistakes: if the public doesn’t know what the goal is, they cannot hold government accountable for missing the mark. But this thinking erodes trust, and it undermines the capacity for public debate and collaboration – processes that make our decisions wiser and more just.

COVID-19 has shifted everyone’s attention, but we must still be asking questions around how we best protect and achieve truly universal healthcare so that we can best protect the health and well-being of people.

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


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