BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Fawning over Foster

British Columbians won’t head to the polls until May 14, 2013 but the campaigning is well underway.

During the last few weeks, senior Liberals have tripped over themselves to tell Vernon-Monashee residents how good a job Eric Foster is doing on their behalf.

“You have a really effective MLA,” said  Premier Christy Clark of Foster while at the B.C. Winter Games and a party gathering last week.

In particular, Clark praised Foster for bringing overcrowding at Vernon Jubilee Hospital to her attention.

“Eric is a very passionate and persuasive man so we certainly know how important this issue is to the people of Vernon,” she said.

But obviously it’s not important enough because the premier didn’t announce funding on a rare visit here. Foster revealed Tuesday that Health Minister Michael de Jong will make an announcement in “two or three weeks,” which is rather vague and it’s not known if development of beds will begin immediately or some time down the road.

Now the Foster Fan Club also surfaced at Coldstream Ranch when Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom unveiled plans for the realignment of Highway 6.

“Not  many days go by that Eric doesn’t stop by to talk about various projects,” said Lekstrom.

There’s no question that Foster has lobbied for improvements to Highway 6 for years as a then-mayor of Lumby and now as MLA. He drives the route frequently and is familiar with the risks motorists are facing. In terms of VJH, Foster has been a strong advocate for more acute care beds and has been a visible presence unlike some of his colleagues. He deserves credit for wading into a group of protesters last summer as an acknowledgment of their concerns over health care.

But one thing that Clark and Lekstrom failed to mention is that Foster has been part of a team.

He worked with the District of Coldstream and Coldstream Ranch to get Highway 6 addressed, while Foster has been collaborating with doctors, residents and civic leaders over hospital conditions.

Clark and Lekstrom may have specifically focused on Foster because the Liberals fear their traditional hold on Vernon-Monashee is soft.

The party narrowly won the 2009 election here and the HST, overcrowding at the hospital, Gordon Campbell’s leadership and the mishandling of services for developmentally disabled adults have undermined support even further.

The NDP can smell blood and they have had a revolving door of politicians dropping into Vernon to wave the flag. The B.C. Conservatives are also looking to tap into perceived resentment of the Liberals.

As hard as Foster has tried to demonstrate his relevancy and advocate for his constituents, his own government hasn’t thrown him a life line — specifically, dragging out a decision on completing the two shelled-in floors at the hospital and adding beds.

And ultimately, it is action that is going to sway the voters and not back-slapping and kind words from politicians that pop in and out faster than a bagel in a toaster.



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