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Letter outlines Liberal strategy to use Burnaby Hospital as election issue

Burnaby Hospital - NEWSLEADER FILE
Burnaby Hospital
— image credit: NEWSLEADER FILE

A document newly-leaked to the BC New Democrats further adds fuel to accusations of political interference in the Burnaby Hospital community consultation process.

The three-page document is purportedly written by three Liberal operatives—Pamela Gardner, former Liberal riding president for Burnaby-Edmonds, Brian Bonney, a former Burnaby mayoral candidate who reportedly works as a B.C. government communications director, and Mark Robertson, director of field operations for the BC Liberal Party.

It proposes using the prospect of a rebuilt Burnaby Hospital as a campaign issue in the next provincial election.

"We will never win New Westminster and likely Burnaby Edmonds in the next campaign," the trio wrote. "Only Burnaby Hospital can deliver a new seat, Burnaby Deer Lake, taking out [NDP MLA Kathy] Corrigan and helping us keep two tight swings; Burnaby North and Burnaby Lougheed," referring to swing ridings.

Premier Christy Clark (referred to as PCC in the letter) was born in the hospital, it states several times.

"Everyone in Burnaby feels Burnaby hospital needs to be re-built. Citizens feel we have been over looked for many years," it said. "A PCC government delivering this will dramatically help our chances to win Deer Lake where the hospital resides."

Previously leaked emails brought accusations of political interference in the process from the NDP.

As reported in the NewsLeader as early as last spring, Burnaby council accused the committee's work of being a political exercise after it was learned its chair is Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, its vice-chair is Burnaby-North Liberal MLA Richard Lee and its "citizen chair" is Pamela Gardner.

Meanwhile, invitations to join the 12-member committee were not extended to Burnaby City Hall, Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, in whose riding the hospital is located, nor front-line nursing staff.

The leaked emails revealed the committee's final report is being written by Sonya Sanguinetti, a retired lawyer and a former president of the B.C. Liberal Party who, Gardner suggested in one message, would blame the chair of Fraser Health Authority (FHA), and not the BC Liberal government, for the lack of resources given to Burnaby hospital compared to others in the FHA.

Another of the emails from Gardner asked if the Liberal operatives wanted a letter written to counter one submitted by Kathy Corrigan's sister, expressing a desire to see the hospital moved to the provincial property at Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way.

But the most recently leaked document appears to suggest the entire Burnaby Hospital review and planning process was born in December 2011, as a political strategy to win more seats in Burnaby.

In the document, it is recommended that Clark, then-Health Minister Mike de Jong, Richard Lee and Harry Bloy tour the hospital and hold a press conference to announce a rebuild or review.

"This would keep the issue ours without committing $$ and buy us time to do some polling and confirm this is a winning issue," it said.

"If Cathy (sic) and [Burnaby Mayor] Derek Corrigan act first we will lose this issue and never get it back. Anything we do at that point will be seen as reacting to the efforts of Cathy Corrigan."

On April 27, during a visit to the facility, de Jong announced $230,000 in funding for a "high-level master-planning process for Burnaby Hospital."

The document recommended a committee be launched to consult with the public on what they wanted to see in a rebuilt Burnaby Hospital, and that Gardner should chair it. It suggested that the committee members include "possible candidates David Yap and Jeff Kuah" both of whom have yet to declare their candidacy.

Indeed, when the Burnaby Hospital Community Consultation Committee was launched, Bloy was named chair, Lee the vice-chair and Gardner the "citizen chair." Emergency physician Dr. David Yap was also named to the group.

As the letter said, "if we can introduce a second generation Chinese doctor candidate for Burnaby Deer Lake, to champion the issue, it would help seal the deal" in winning the seat.

The author or authors of the leaked document advocates replacing Burnaby Hospital with a new building.

"When a person steps onto the 2nd to 7th floor the stench of stale urine is extremely strong. The conditions are much poorer than any other hospital I've been to in B.C."

NDP health critic Mike Farnworth called the consultation process a waste of time.

"Instead of making decisions that improve the quality and accessibility of health services for patients, the Liberals have effectively wasted months on a tainted and unusable consultation committee. It just stinks," said Farnworth in a press release.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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