Opening volleys were fired in the Surrey South byelection Thursday morning – with the chosen battleground the site of a proposed hospital in Cloverdale.
NDP candidate Pauline Greaves, with assistance from Health Minister Adrian Dix, came out strongly is support of the $1.7 billion hospital slated for land near Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
And the same morning, BC Liberal candidate Elenore Sturko and party leader Kevin Falcon issued a counter-statement reconfirming their support for a second hospital in Surrey – just not the plan and location the NDP is advocating.
In a campaign event in South Surrey, Greaves and Dix reaffirmed their commitment to the NDP plan – described in campaign literature as “the biggest provincial investment in a hospital in B.C. history.”
It offers 168 beds, a 55-space emergency room, operating rooms, MRIs, CT scanners and a regional cancer centre, they said.
And Greaves said she sent a letter to Sturko, urging her to condemn Falcon’s opposition to building the hospital in Cloverdale.
But Sturko and Falcon fired back with a statement in which they said that the plan does not measure up to Surrey’s needs, with Falcon dismissing the proposed hospital as “the NDP’s glorified clinic.”
“The NDP promised Surrey voters a full-service hospital, but all they’re getting is a glorified urgent care centre with just 168 beds, no ICU, and no maternity ward, in Cloverdale,” Falcon said.
“It’s simply not good enough for our province’s fastest-growing city,” he added, noting the 50,000 bump in new population between 2016 and 2021.
“Residents can expect a BC Liberal government to deliver a full-service hospital to meet the vital needs of their community.”
But in terms of the immediate byelection, Dix said, a vote for Greaves will be a vote for getting the planned hospital built.
“(She) will be a strong advocate for this project that is critical to ensuring that people in Cloverdale and Surrey South will have access to health care closer to where they live,” he said.
“The community deserves a hospital and an MLA who supports it, not a BC Liberal who will fight to take it away.”
Greaves and Dix noted that, as finance minister in 2012, Falcon had sold land earmarked as the site of a second Surrey hospital, arguing that the city was already served well enough by Surrey Memorial.
“The best predictor of future behaviour is past performance,” Greaves said. “When given the opportunity, Kevin Falcon sold the land for a second Surrey Hospital. Now that the BC NDP has one underway, he’s threatening to scrap that progress and move it out of Cloverdale. I’m working for you and will help make sure we get it built.”
Meanwhile Sturko argued that the health care crisis has dramatically worsened in B.C., noting three recent deaths – two of people waiting in hospital ERs and one waiting because no ambulance was available, “as a result of the understaffed and overwhelmed system.”
“These examples come in addition to critically low staffing levels at Urgent and Primary Care Centres and the fact that nearly one million British Columbians don’t have a family doctor,” Sturko said, adding the BC Liberals have put forward a detailed 30-day action plan to help tackle the primary care crisis and improve the retention of physicians, as well as further recruitment solutions including new initiatives for internationally-trained doctors.
“The healthcare system is crumbling throughout the province with deaths due to ambulance delays, emergency rooms closing or reducing hours, and walk-in clinics shutting down forever,” she said.
“Meanwhile, NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix has been missing in action all summer. I’m glad to see him finally reappear here in Surrey for the seventh time to reiterate his commitment to the NDP’s glorified urgent care centre in Cloverdale, but people expect action from him on this deadly serious healthcare crisis, not partisan press conferences,” she charged.
“The time for action is now, we can no longer afford NDP platitudes and broken promises.”