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Mayor 'not surprised' by Liberal manoeuvres

The political motivations indicated in emails between members of the Burnaby Hospital community consultation committee and Liberal Party politicians and staff don't surprise Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

The political motivations indicated in emails between members of the Burnaby Hospital community consultation committee and Liberal Party politicians and staff don't surprise Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

"I was concerned about this from the very beginning, that this was simply a political exercise, a sanitization of what had happened at Burnaby Hospital and an effort to try to put a political spin on whatever was going to happen in the future," he said of the consultation process undertaken by the committee, which was formed by Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, who acted as chair, and North Burnaby Liberal MLA Richard Lee, who served as vice-chair.

The emails, which were given by the New Democratic Party to The Vancouver Sun last week, indicate that the consultation process has been politically driven.

Pam Gardner, citizen chair for the committee and author of a number of the controversial emails, was an elementary school friend of Premier Christy Clark, according to Corrigan.

"This was the way she could ensure for herself that she could get a positive result out of any consultation process," he said of the premier.

The City of Burnaby did not participate in the committee's consultation, Corrigan said, but has communicated with the Burnaby Hospital Foundation and Fraser Health regarding long-term plans for the hospital.

But he added he is concerned by mention in the emails of the hospital's executive director and site director's involvement in the consultations, as well as members of the foundation.

"It appears that Fraser Health and the foundation capitulated and participated in this . feigned consultation," he said.

The exposure of the political nature of the emails will likely affect the reputations of committee members, including spokesperson Dr. David Jones, Corrigan said.

"I think there are a lot of people whose reputations are irrevocably damaged by this," he said. "Despite his protests of being apolitical ... he was deeply involved in the political process. I think that's a shame."

Jones issued a statement to the media last Thursday evening regarding the email exchange, stating the committee did not receive any money from taxpayers to conduct the consultations and was volunteer-driven.

Jones also stated the committee was formed to gather information, not to make decisions on the future of the hospital.

He asked that the media and the public reserve judgement on the report, compiled by the committee and written by former B.C. Liberal Party president Sonya Sanguinetti, until they have read the contents.

"The committee's report will be a factual presentation of what the committee heard from the many citizens, organizations, health-care workers, unions, citizens and professionals who took the time to engage with the committee, either through verbal or written submissions or presentations at over eight different public meetings," he wrote. "Hundreds of hours have been devoted by committee members and presenters, and one can only wonder whether this type of information would ever have been gathered had it not been for the work of people who shared the belief that the committee's work was important and a valid component of the larger planning process."

Jones did not respond to the NOW's request for an interview on Thursday or two followup requests on Monday.

An email from the NOW asked Jones if he or other committee members had concerns about Sanguinetti's position on the report, which was suggested in an email by Gardner as being pro-Liberal.

"A major theme has been the lack of resources and how BH (Burnaby Hospital) has been the worst resourced hospital in Fraser Health," the email from Gardner stated. "She feels this isn't a reflection on the Liberal government but more on the chair of Fraser Health."

The email also asked why Sanguinetti was chosen as the author. There were also questions regarding Gardner's suggestion that the committee have someone write a letter to counter one written by Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan's sister suggesting the hospital be relocated. Finally, the email asked if the committee would be publicly releasing the names of donors to the consultation. The process was estimated to cost $230,000, but Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said Thursday that it was not funded by taxpayers.

The committee was formed to assess the health-care needs of the community and look at ways to improve health-care outcomes, particularly in regards to C. dif-ficile outbreaks over the past two and a half years.

Fraser Health is preparing its own final report on plans for Burnaby Hospital and has stated that it welcomes feedback from the committee and will consider it while preparing the report for the Ministry of Health.

Bloy did not respond to requests for an interview before press time.

Pamela Gardner, citizen chair for the committee, was also not available for an interview before press time. She is past president of the Burnaby-Edmonds Liberal Riding, according to The Vancouver Sun. For the full text of the emails posted by The Vancouver Sun, go to http: // doc/111072503/Burnaby-Hosp-Emails-Redacted.