Sonia Furstenau meets with SFU350 and SFPIRG

Furstenau is joined by Aida Mas Baghaie to discuss changes to climate politics

This photo is of Sonia Furstenau and Liam Mackay sitting at the front of an audience. They are engaged in conversation, sitting in two red chairs as people listen from the audience.
Furstenau discusses her solutions for Canadian politics on climate change. PHOTO: Federico Cerani / BC Green Caucus

By: Karissa Ketter, News Editor 

SFU350 and the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) hosted a meet and greet event with BC’s Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau. The conversation was held in the Student Union Building at the Social Stage on September 22. 

SFPIRG member Aida Mas Baghaie opened the conversation. “When I started thinking about climate and affordability, I really thought about how we just can’t afford to not react and address the issue of climate change.”

An example they noted of this is the recent flooding of BC. “On these unceded Coast Salish and [surrounding] territories, over the last few years we have seen so many devastating impacts of climate change,” said Baghaie.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada noted the cost to repair the damages of last year’s floods was $675 million. This cost only covers things that can be insured and does not include environmental or ecological damages caused by the floods.

In response, Baghaie noted instead of spending large amounts of money on repairing damages from climate change, this money could be put towards climate change mitigation and adaptation instead. 

I don’t think I would be here if I thought we were doomed,” said Baghaie. They believe there are strategies to address climate change, but “we can’t afford to have solutions that are only for the rich.

“A lot of what I believe the solutions and strategies to address climate change are, are actually things that are for the people, by the people.” 

After opening the conversation to the audience, an audience member suggested redirecting “fossil fuel subsidies into grants that allow homeowners to install heat pumps or buy electric cars.” Another suggested localizing food production, to which Baghaie added, “localizing food production in a way that doesn’t violate human rights because currently we rely on exploitative migrant work in order to create local food.”

SFU350 member Liam Mackay sat down with Furstenau to get her insight on the relationship between climate change and affordability. She began by noting “actually working together is better than fighting each other” in the political realm. 

Furstenau believes its important to change the way Canadian politicians view climate change because the issues we face with climate change “aren’t going to be solved by the methods that got us here,” according to Furstenau. “It almost seems childish to me now to look at our political system and to see it rooted in this finger-pointing, conflict-driven way, at a time when we have no time to waste.”

Mackay asked Furstenau what needs to be done at a local and international level to address the climate crisis. She said our government needs to stop subsidizing and funding the fossil fuel industry. She cited the billions of dollars of subsidies Canada puts into the LNG and the oil and gas industries. “If we were putting those billions into a clean energy transition, into a just transition where we support people and communities to be well and healthy, into food security, into ensuring water security, into transportation, we would be transforming the world,” said Furstenau. 

She feels it is unacceptable for governments to put “the extraction of resources and profit ahead of every other value.

“We have to remember what actually is valuable,” said Furstenau. “In a hyper-consumer culture of competition, perceived scarcity, and the loss of compassion that comes with that — we forget what’s real.”

One of Furstenau’s main concerns with our national politics is the amount of voter apathy amongst Canadians. Global News reported only 62% of eligible Canadians voted in our last federal election. “We have to demonstrate that governments have an important and positive role to play in these solutions,” said Furstenau. 

She said her suggestions of remedying voter apathy is based on the words of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation activist Cedar George-Parker: “We need to humanize our politics and Indigenize our institutions.”