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The Globe and Mail

Politics trumps planning on Vancouver Island hospitals

Doctors perform heart surgery at a Vancouver hospital on Nov. 9, 2011.

JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Politics trumped planning in the decision to build two new hospitals on Vancouver Island, according to Campbell River Mirror .B.C. Premier Christy Clark last week announced the construction of a 153-bed, $334-million hospital will begin in the Comox Valley in early 2013, which will be shortly before the next provincial election. Construction of a $266-million, 95-bed hospital in Campbell River is expected to begin around the same time. Campbell River is 50 kilometres north of Comox. Editorial staffer Paul Rudan says the "vast majority" of health care professionals that he spoke to said one hospital would be better. "This was a political decision that will not result in better or improved health care for residents on the upper half of Vancouver Island," he writes. How can health authorities provide better health care when services are split between two hospitals and fundraisers compete in trying "to out-do each other in getting the latest and greatest, and quite expensive, medical equipment for each hospital," he writes.


As teachers withdraw from extra-curricular activities, some newspapers in the Interior of B.C. roundly criticized the Liberal government for its handling of the protracted teachers' dispute. The teachers were left with no options, writes editor Autumn MacDonald of the Cariboo Observer in Quesnel. Government legislation backed up with heavy fines took away the alternatives, the editorial says. "Teachers have no other choice but to pull out from after-school sporting, music and theatre activities, it's their only means to engage government in discussion. Government has forced them to take action, where the outcome negatively impacts students, in hopes the pressure will lead [the government]to negotiate rather than legislate. Even if you oppose strike action, even if you don't agree with teachers, government should never be able to remove all bargaining rights," the newspaper says.

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"It takes two to tangle," says The Free Press in 100 Mile House. Many people are "madder than hornets" as they realized that graduation ceremonies, school sports and field trips are in jeopardy, newspaper editor Ken Alexander writes. But teachers feel they are being backed into a corner and are losing all their rights to have a say on what's going on in provincial education and their workplaces. "The B.C. Liberals have been mean-spirited in their non-negotiation with the teachers and have definitely played a role in what we are faced with today. Perhaps, this is their last hurrah before they are kicked to the curb next year," the newspaper says.

The Nanaimo News Bulletin says the teachers were taking a big gamble by pulling out of sports and other extra-curricular activities. While the intended target is the provincial government, what teachers are more likely to experience is strained relationships and a drop in support, the newspaper says in an editorial distributed by Black Press. "If they wish to keep the public on their side, B.C. teachers will need a deft communications strategy to explain why collective bargaining principles are more important than an end-of-year field trip or tournament – or grad," the newspaper says. Also, many events will go ahead anyway, leaving teachers with less clout and fewer relationships on which to build bonds. "All this heartache would be worth it if there was some tangible pay-off in the end. But the public education system has never been perfect and teachers will be hard-pressed to explain how punishing kids is punishing the government," the newspaper says.


Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton says the B.C. Liberal Party should change its name but the Maple Ridge New, says a name change would be pointless. "A tiger can't change its stripes," says a Maple Ridge News editorial . "Changing the party's name is just painting over them." The newspaper says the reasons for wanting to rebrand the party are easy to see. "But whatever the Liberals come up with – the B.C. Alliance Party is being floated about – it's still the same cast of characters who brought you the B.C. Rail and HST fiascoes, among others. Whether or not Kevin Falcon and other cabinet ministers run again isn't going to change that. And changing the party's name, to something more progressive, won't erase the past, or fool many."


Meanwhile in federal politics,

The Northern View in Prince Rupert celebrated the choice of the local member of Parliament - Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen – as the new NDP House leader but not without some reservations. " It essentially cements our representative as a person of power within the system of Canadian government, and that can do nothing but help the people here in the region," a newspaper editorial says. "Let's face it, saying the Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP has an issue with something doesn't carry nearly as much weight as saying the House Leader of the Official Opposition has an issue with something." But the newspaper also acknowledged that Mr. Cullen may take a larger perspective on some issues. "[Mr.]Cullen will have to represent the people of the riding, but in the eyes of many across the country, he will be someone who speaks on behalf of the NDP party." As one of the power players in the party, he will need to tow the party line. Mr. Cullen will have to balance his allegiance to the party with his responsibility to represent the people who elected him, the paper says.

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