A healthy exchange of ideas

Giving a voice to all is the fundamental tenet of democracy. Today, far too often, differences in principles and policy are treated with disdain rather than respectful discourse. Within the legislature, important voices emanate from both sides of the aisle. Bringing different ideas to the table is an essential component - the very soul - of a healthy democracy; it is the role of the opposition and leaders not in government to critically assess the work of the government, hold it accountable, and propose alternatives. The dynamic of a healthy exchange of ideas contributed to my decision to enter political life as a BC Green.

Almost two years ago, when it became evident to me that I would soon be nearing the end of my surgical career, my path forward was a bit murky. The only thing of which I was certain was that I wanted to continue to contribute to a healthy society. I was no longer armed with a scalpel, but with three decades of knowledge about healthcare, people, their needs and vulnerabilities. I had reservations about politics. Naturally a private individual, I was skeptical about entering a discipline that would force me to be in the public eye. I also had hesitations about aligning myself with any political party - something I’d never done in the past.

An initial conversation with BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau, followed by an exchange of many ideas between us and subsequent discussions with other members of the BC Green Party team, forged my path. Sonia is not a prototypical politician. She answers questions, does not deflect, and readily acknowledges where and when she requires help. She is open, honest, and transparent. She cares passionately about her community and the people who live in BC. She is thoughtful about not just our needs today, but those of our children, grandchildren, and the generations that will follow.

The vision and values of the BC Greens are my vision and values. The movement is about more than climate and the environment. The Greens understand that those issues, essential to our future, intersect with almost every important social issue of our time - healthcare, housing, employment, and the economy. Sonia’s philosophy, and that of the BC Greens, centers around people. The party’s principles are science-based, they make sense, and they are replete with compassion and a belief in facts. The BC Greens promote the values instilled in me by immigrant parents who came to Canada in the late 60s with absolutely nothing. I see a Party that believes in the same things they did and I do: integrity, hard work, humility, and caring for fellow human beings.

Democracy is not without significant challenges. Many politicians often have their priorities a bit mixed up. Politics should not be all about getting elected or staying in power. As a physician, I learned that optimal patient care always started with listening to patients – this skill, coupled with the ability and opportunity to ask the right questions, always led to the “answer”. The same principle is core to our democracy. At its heart, democracy is about the voice of all people to improve our society. Similar to clinical medicine, that means listening. Real politics should be about discussion and compromise, not obstruction and obfuscation. Sustainable solutions focus on people.

COVID is a good example of how we are denying democracy important conversations. Many people have grown understandably tired of COVID’s impacts on our daily lives. However, despite what some would like to believe, we have yet to emerge from this global pandemic. The BC Greens have advocated for citizens, fostered education, and supported science-based approaches to combat the virus. We need diverse voices in our democracy to speak to problems and solutions that may otherwise go undiscussed or even recognized, issues that may very well determine our fate for the next pandemic. There will be another one. In our lifetimes? I don’t know. In our childrens’? - almost certainly.

The issues that require attention in BC are many. However, we should be fighting these challenges, not each other. If we keep people in the middle of the solutions, they are actually straightforward. Insight, foresight, more than a bit of humility to appreciate and acknowledge past errors, and unwavering courage to make changes necessary to improve is an equation for a healthy, prosperous society. Naysayers won’t disappear but those gut checks will continue to be provided by me as a member of the leadership team of the BC Green Party.

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