VANCOUVER – The B.C. Liberals are continuing their approach of saying one thing before an election and doing another after when it comes to health infrastructure spending, say B.C.’s New Democrats.
This week, the Liberals refused to give a straight answer about the timeline for replacement of St. Paul’s Hospital, leading many to worry that the needed upgrades will continue to be delayed until it meets the political needs of the premier.
Last week, Health Minister Terry Lake admitted that Liberal candidates were making more empty promises leading up to Election Day.
During debate in the legislature on July 23, New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy asked about a specific commitment of $50 million that now-MLA for Peace River-South, Mike Bernier, promised for improvements to Dawson Creek and District Hospital.
“Most things during an election campaign are for political purposes,” Lake answered, sounding eerily like Premier Christy Clark’s infamous “we all say things to get elected” comment.
“British Columbians deserve health care facilities that meet their needs, and the need is certainly great,” said Darcy. “What they’re getting is a Liberal government that will be utterly dishonest if it furthers their own ‘political purposes.’”
Darcy pointed to other examples of health capital spending promises made by the Liberals “for political purposes”:
Penticton Hospital – In March, the premier promised that a new hospital would be built, saying “We know the money is there. We know there is room in the budget.” But in Estimates last week, Minister Lake acknowledged the only money that has been committed is $2 million for a business plan. He couldn’t give an estimated completion date.
Burnaby Hospital – During the campaign, the Liberals claimed that the overdue Burnaby Hospital replacement was “underway or in planning,” but there is no mention of the hospital in either the February or June budget updates.
Darcy said Minister Lake, when pressed, claimed money was indeed in the budget, pointing to a $414.5 million line item for various, unspecified health infrastructure projects.
“The lack of transparency around this $400-million fund is shocking,” said Darcy. “It would seem this is something the Liberals will simply dip into when they can’t extract themselves from something they said “for political purposes.”
New Democrats have been a strong, principled opposition in the legislature, and will continue to fight for the critical services British Columbians depend on, and for the accountability they deserve.