The citizen chair of the Burnaby Hospital community consultation committee, Pamela Gardner, has apologized for mistakes made during the committee's rather controversial life.
"And I concede that I have made some mistakes that may lead people to be even more disenfranchised with politics and for this I am sorry, as we need more people involved in how we are governed, not less," she wrote in an emailed statement to the Burnaby NOW.
Gardner, was responding to stories detailing emails and a letter between members of the committee - including Gardner - and Liberal Party insiders that were made public recently. The correspondence was given to The Vancouver Sun by the B.C. NDP.
The leaked letter, which was the subject of a story in Friday's Vancouver Sun, indicates that the consultation process for Burnaby Hospital began based on political motivations to retain the Liberal Burnaby North and Lougheed ridings, and to win the Burnaby-Deer Lake riding currently held by NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan.
The letter was titled "A NEW Burnaby Hospital: The issue we can win Burnaby Deer Lake on, re-win Burnaby North and Lougheed. - Will also help in Fairview and Fraserview."
The letter was written last winter, according to The Vancouver Sun, authored by Gardner; Brian Bonney, communications director for the B.C. ministry responsible for multiculturalism; and Mark Robertson, director of field operations for the B.C. Liberal Party.
The letter states that the Liberal government should get ahead of the issue before Corrigan starts a "save Burnaby Hospital" campaign and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, her husband, pushes for a new hospital.
The letter recommends: "We MUST act first: PCC (Premier Christy Clark), MMD (then-health minister Mike de Jong), Richard Lee and Harry Bloy to tour Bby Hospital ASAP and do a press conference after to announce that PCC will re-build Burnaby hospital OR look into what the community wants (This would keep the issue ours without committing $$ and buy us time to do some polling and confirm this is a winning issue)."
Lee is the Liberal MLA for Burnaby North, and vice-chair of the committee, and Bloy is the Liberal MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed, and chair of the committee.
The letter also recommended the consultation committee be launched, with Gardner as chair.
Potential Liberal candidates for the riding - Dr. David Yap and Jeff Kuah - were also recommended for the committee. Yap is a member.
Gardner responded to the NOW's request for an interview with a lengthy written statement, which included the apology.
She defended her role on the committee as well, speaking of her work in the Burnaby community and attachment to the hospital.
"As it has been well documented, I was born in Burnaby Hospital and raised in Burnaby," Gardner wrote. "What you might not know is I attended Burnaby schools, I played sports in Burnaby, I was a lifeguard in Burnaby, I'm a Rotarian in Burnaby and I served on the Burnaby Hospital Board before regional health boards came in. I love this city and I love my Burnaby Hospital."
Gardner wrote that she is also passionate about how her community is governed, and became involved in politics when Fraser Health began a master planning process for the hospital years ago, and there were suggestions it might be shut down.
"At the end of the day, the one thing that I hope we can all agree on is that our Burnaby Hospital needs attention," she wrote. "That is what the committee and I set out to do, and again, I believe our report will do nothing less. Our report is simply the voice of those concerned citizens, doctors, nurses, unions and organizations that cared enough to try and help, to tell a story, and bring forward suggestions and solutions - and I am committed to getting that out."
MLA Kathy Corrigan told the NOW Friday that she didn't take the letter personally, though it focused on ousting her to get a Liberal MLA in the riding.
But she said she was incensed that the Liberals would put politics before the health of the community served by the hospital.
"The future of Burnaby hospital was predicated on trying to win seats back, and decisions on health in Burnaby were being made for political reasons, not for what's in the best interests for Burnaby, so I find that really frustrating," she said. "To me it's just a new low in politics and in the Liberal party, so it's very disappointing."
Making decisions primarily on the basis of trying to win seats is an inappropriate way to govern, Corrigan added.
"People have to believe that there is integrity in the way government is run. That is the most important thing," she said. "And the integrity of this process, and of many of the people involved, has been absolutely destroyed in this."
She is also suspicious now of other decisions made about Burnaby and other communities, she said, adding there was a master plan for Burnaby a decade ago that said the hospital needed to be replaced, and nothing was done under the Liberal party during the past decade.
"The result we get is a hospital that provides great services with the resources that it has but has serious problems," Corrigan said. "And I lay that directly at the feet of the Liberal government."
She said there are members of the committee who were not involved with the Liberal party's agenda, and there were many people in the community who spoke at the public consultations, and these people deserved better.
"It's a grave disservice to those people, who thought they were participating in objective process for the good of their community," she said.
Current B.C. health minister Margaret MacDiarmid spoke to the NOW regarding emails leaked to the NDP last month, which also indicated the committee's consultation process was politically driven.
Bloy and Lee formed the committee, she said at the time, not the health ministry. She added that it was not government funded.
The mayor of Burnaby spoke to the NOW in a story published on Apr. 11, stating Burnaby needed a new hospital.
The committee's formation was announced on Apr. 27 by then-health minister de Jong, Bloy and Lee, when de Jong laid out Fraser Health's master planning process for the hospital.
A press release for the announcement appears on Bloy's website under the heading "B.C. Government Caucus News Releases."
To read the full text of Gardner's letter, go to www. burnabynow.com.