Liberal partisan activity taints Burnaby health consultation

BURNABY – Revelations that the Liberal government has turned a public consultation into a partisan exercise is more evidence Premier Christy Clark is putting partisan interests ahead of the needs of Burnaby residents, say the New Democrats.

Emails released Wednesday show that a committee overseeing public consultation into upgrades at Burnaby Hospital, supposedly led by two MLAs, was really being run by backroom Liberal operatives, with an emphasis of re-directing blame away from the government.

“British Columbians had a right to be skeptical when two backbench MLAs – including the only caucus member supportive of Premier Clark during the Liberal leadership race – were chosen to lead this committee, rather than health management experts,” says New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth. “Now we see this committee for what it really is: a sham intended to provide cover for the Liberal government whose inaction caused the problems at Burnaby in the first place.”

The supposed consultation committee was struck in response to serious health concerns raised at Burnaby Hospital, including a long-term outbreak of C. difficile at the hospital. MLAs Harry Bloy and Richard T. Lee were named as co-chairs of the committee. The emails released this week show that strings were being pulled from behind the scenes by prominent Liberal operatives Brian Bonney – whom Clark brought into government – and Pamela Gardner as well as former Liberal Party president Sonya Sanguinetti.

The emails show that the committee’s reports were being timed to be released this weekend in conjunction with the Liberal Party convention.

“It’s outrageous that the Liberals took an issue of serious importance to the people of Burnaby and reduced it to a crass political exercise,” said Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan. “The emails clearly show that political considerations were more important to the Liberals than the health care needs of Burnaby.”

In one email, Gardner tells Bonney, Bloy and others that “I'm obviously very pleased as politically it's a great piece for you people.”

“It’s disappointing that the Liberals’ misplaced priorities are impacting the people in my community,” said Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, who in the spring raised issues of cleanliness in relation to the C. difficile outbreak at the hospital. “Burnaby residents deserve a government that puts their health care needs ahead of their political party’s future.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats repeatedly raised issues of concern about the deteriorating situation at Burnaby Hospital during the last session of the legislature, and highlighted the need for better health care for the people of Burnaby.