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B.C. Green leader accuses health minister, NDP of quiet quitting

Furstenau says province isn’t leaning hard enough into solving the health care crisis
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she considers recent comments by health minister Dix that a spike in emergency room activity may be the new normal as unacceptable. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau has accused Health Minister Adrian Dix and the provincial government of quietly quitting.

Speaking at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver on Wednesday (Sept. 20), Furstenau called Dix’s recent admission that high demand for emergency medical care might be the “new normal” unacceptable.

“It’s such a devastating thing to hear from the person who is tasked with making the health care system work for the public,” Furstenau said. “(If) he is not trying to fix it, who is? By accepting that level of mediocrity as the norm, the minister of health is quietly quitting.

“When a government quietly quits on the public, the consequences are costly,” she said.

She made those comments as part of a broader critique accusing the provincial government of consistently dismissing input from municipal leaders as they face “fires, wildfire smoke, drought, serious water shortages, crumbling health care, shortage of housing, more and more unhealthy people, schools without enough teachers, (and) crippling infrastructure needs.”

She said she consistently hears from local government officials who say the provincial government has either ignored or dismissed their solutions, especially when it comes to rural health care.

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Political leadership starts with honesty and must be based on good faith among parties, Furstenau said, arguing that the current relationship between the province and municipalities does not clear that bar.

Furstenau said Dix’s “new normal” comments suggest he might not be asking what potential exists to transform things.

“I just refuse to accept that government cannot provide basic and equitable services to everywhere in B.C. Those are political decisions that need to be made. What I want to hear from the minister is, ‘Yes, things are really bad and they’ve been bad for a couple of years. Here are the immediate steps we’re going to take.’”

RELATED: ER activity spike may be B.C.’s new normal: Dix

“(You) need to stop working against communities,” she said. “Start working with them. Be solutions-oriented and be focused on how you are going to get services delivered to people.”

When asked whether the recent run of government announcements around health care do not constitute progress, Furstenau said local health leaders in rural B.C. are deeply frustrated about existing bureaucratic and administrative obstacles.

“It was the same thing with the emergency task force that was announced by (Premier David Eby) a couple of weeks ago,” she said. “We have a lot of report on how we should be preparing for and operating during wildfires emergencies. Let’s focus on how we are implementing those recommendations.”

Furstenau said British Columbians should expect excellency from their government, no matter the party in power, and no matter the overlapping crises.

“We should have a government that says, ‘Maybe we can’t do all these extras over here for now, because we have to focus on these basics.’ But let’s make sure that in a province, in a country with the wealth and resources that we have, we should never accept less than a baseline of excellence in the delivery of public services.”

Black Media Press has reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment and will update the story accordingly.

RELATED: Dix promises new cancer centre in Kamloops


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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