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BC Green leadership hopeful Sonia Furstenau pitches shorter work week

Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau kicks off her leadership campaign. Richard Zussman/Global News

BC Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau is proposing conversations with businesses and labour organization to shorten the work week for full-time workers in an attempt to improve work-life balance.

Furstenau introduced her economic plan on Friday as part of her bid to become the leader of BC Greens. So far she is the only declared candidate looking to replace Andrew Weaver.

READ MORE: MLA Sonia Furstenau kicks off campaign to become BC Green leader

“We are at a crucial moment in history where change is necessary. With the right strategy, B.C. has the ability to be the most resilient, innovative economy in the world,” Furstenau said.

“We need to create an economic environment that supports smart risk-takers and creative problem solvers. To accomplish this, we must invest in our greatest resource: the people of B.C. Healthy citizens who can afford to live in their communities are the foundation of tomorrow’s resilient, innovative economy.”

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The shorter work week has been grappled with in other jurisdictions. Finland is exploring the concept of a six hour, four day work week.

The platform explains many employers are already assessing their employees’ work in more qualitative ways, rather than just simply in number of hours worked.

“I will also spearhead consultations to explore how we can support British Columbians to have a healthier work-life balance. When people have more time to spend with their family and friends, they spend it making their communities happier, healthier, and more connected places to live,” Furstenau said.

“They provide vital care services for their loved ones, both young and old, and invest more time in their own mental health and well being.”

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The economic vision also proposes an adoption of health and well-being budgets, including progress indicators to require government ministries to measure economic, health, social and environmental factors.

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The B.C. Greens won three seats in 2017 election and currently hold the balance of power with now-independent MLA Andrew Weaver.

Furstenau’s plan also includes universal early childhood education and child care, public and post-secondary education, programs to achieve universal livable wages, demand and supply-side affordable housing measures and mental health care.

“We need to start by updating how we measure a healthy economy. The other two parties continue to tout GDP growth, while our affordability crisis makes headlines around the world,” Furstenau said.

“They subsidize divisive fossil fuel investments while investors increasingly sound the alarm about the need to centre climate change in our economic plans.”

READ MORE: B.C. Government ignores advice from MSP task force, brings in payroll tax

The BC Greens has been critical of the province’s decision to bring in an Employers’ Health Tax to replace Medical Service Plan premiums.

Furstenau’s platform calls for a review of the tax and includes looking at the suggestions from the province’s own task force, which was ignored. The task force suggested an elimination of the Home Owner Grant, removing PST exemption on pop, juice and energy drinks and increasing existing liquor and tobacco taxes.

The economic plan also calls for funding for innovation clusters based on a proposal from the provincial innovation commissioner’s report, and increasing funding and spaces for innovation-related post-secondary spots, co-ops and apprenticeships.

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“I’m running for leader of the BC Green Party because I know B.C. is just scratching the surface of our potential. It’s time to move past these outdated ways of thinking and embrace change,” Furstenau said.

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