B.C. NDP campaigns on previously announced health-care promises

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau criticized John Horgan's use of the Cowichan hospital in his electioneering, calling it 'irresponsible.'

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau (centre, green shirt) backed up by Green candidates speaks at a media conference Sept. 28, 2020 on the seawall at Harbour Green Park in Vancouver. For Rob Shaw story. Credit: Mike Bell/PNG [PNG Merlin Archive]

B.C. Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau blasted John Horgan and the NDP on Monday for coming into her riding and taking credit for a long-planned hospital, while using the project to play politics.

Furstenau’s rebuke came as Horgan continued to make health care a priority during his pandemic provincial election campaign Monday, which includes re-announcing facilities and health measures that were already on the books.

The Green leader, who is the candidate in the Cowichan Valley riding, said Horgan’s campaigning was “irresponsible” and wrong.

“Come and tell us about your vision for the province, come and tell us how you’re going to solve the crises that people are facing, come and tell us how you’re going to ensure that every person in British Columbia has equal access to the services and to the infrastructure that it is government’s job to provide,” she said. “Do not come and instil fear in people in hopes of getting them to vote for you.”

On Sunday, Horgan suggested that the future of the hospital — which was announced in 2018 after years of work, and for which the business case has been approved — could be in jeopardy if the B.C. Liberals are elected and tax cuts are enacted.

The new hospital will be almost three times larger than the existing Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, which has 134 beds and was built in 1967. It’s expected that construction on the new hospital will be complete by 2024.

It was an event similar to ones that have taken place across the province in the last week, where Horgan has re-announced health-care measures.

A day later, on Monday, Horgan appeared in Victoria and Richmond, where he talked again about proposed Liberal tax cuts and the effect he believes they could have on surgery and medical-imaging waiting times, as well as plans to build more hospitals and urgent- and primary-care centres across B.C. He also mentioned four new MRI machines in Maple Ridge, Langley and Vancouver.

“All of that is at-risk if British Columbians decide to go back to the B.C. Liberals,” Horgan said.

In Terrace, Horgan announced that his party would spend $441 million to replace the Mills Memorial Hospital, which serves the city and the surrounding region. A concept plan was approved for the hospital in February 2018 and a business plan in May 2019. It’s expected that ground will be broken on the new facility by the end of thisyear.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson disputed Horgan’s claim that the Liberals would reinstate MSP premiums, and said that he expects the employer health tax will remain in place for the time being because government revenues are down.

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