BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Taking a stand

Cynicism and politicians go together like mac and cheese or Charlie Sheen and disaster.

Cynicism and politicians go together like mac and cheese or Charlie Sheen and disaster.

It often seems like elected officials will tell you what they think you want to hear and then  do the opposite. Or it appears that their loyalties are with their party and not constituents.

That’s why, quite honestly, I didn’t expect Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster to show up at the Canada Day rally at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. It would have been easy for him to sidestep residents who are frustrated with his government’s handling of the lack of acute care beds. Some claim he hasn’t been vocal enough on the matter.

But part way through the event, Foster proved  me wrong.

Wearing a Canada hockey jersey, he navigated his way through the crowd of about 200 people and climbed on top of a bench. From there, he indicated that he has been pushing the Ministry of Health regularly for acute care beds and that the situation at VJH is on his radar.

He also thanked the residents for showing up because he believes a community-based outcry will reinforce his case to the Victoria bean counters.

Like I mentioned earlier, Foster could have ignored the rally. After all, how many of us would want to face a crowd that is unhappy with an organization we represent? Confrontation is not something any of us covet.

The reality is it’s also awkward for backbench Liberal MLAs to participate in events placing demands on the premier and cabinet.

What helps though, is Foster has made the case for funding while not being openly critical of the government. And given that Foster is in lock-step with his constituents, he won’t be punished for attending the rally. Premier Christy Clark isn’t going to risk public furor and the Liberals’ hold on Vernon-Monashee over VJH.

But while Foster has joined the ranks of those wearing purple ribbons in solidarity with patients and health care professionals, there hasn’t been a peep from the rest of the provincial government.

Where is Shuswap MLA George Abbott in all of this? Has he been lobbying for beds for his constituents who depend on VJH?

Health Minister Michael de Jong toured the new Polson tower in April and he stated at the time that resolving overcrowding was a priority for his ministry. Not a word has been heard since.

And then there is the premier.

Clark should know what’s going on unless she doesn’t read newspapers, watch television, cruise the Internet or speak to her MLAs. Why hasn’t she visited Vernon to meet with the doctors and look at conditions first hand?

As she assumed the premier’s chair, Clark established B.C. families as her government’s focus. Yet, the constant code purple at VJH is creating a crisis for North Okanagan families. People waiting for months are having surgeries cancelled.

Seniors who can’t get into a residential care facility languish in the hospital. Patients experiencing serious ailments are shoved into a hallway. Doctors and nurses face challenging work conditions and that stress is then taken home.

Foster showed last week that he isn’t just holding a seat for the Liberals. He faced his constituents head-on and joined them in a photo that will be sent to the government he represents.

Foster did exactly what residents expect of their elected officials. It’s too bad his colleagues wouldn’t do the same thing.

—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star

Vernon Morning Star

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