by Grant Granger – New Westminster News Leader
posted Feb 12, 2015 at 2:00 PM— updated Feb 12, 2015 at 3:01 PM
New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy was on the ferry to Victoria for the opening of the legislature when she struck up a conversation with a national journalist.
He bristled, like many other political pundits in their predictions, about how the throne speech would be all about nothing. Darcy disagreed. She’d heard so much from her constituents there would be a lot to debate.
But after listening to Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon deliver the throne speech for Premier Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government, she agrees with the jaded journalist.
“It was underwhelming,” said Darcy in an interview with the NewsLeader.
Darcy was the first speaker for the Opposition NDP when debate opened up Wednesday. She said she stayed up late pouring her heart and soul into writing what many have told her was her most passionate speech ever.
What alarmed her the most was there was just two words on health care. As Opposition health critic she said there was lots to talk about.
As an example of what’s happening around the province, she pointed to problems at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. She talked about a 68-year-old man who was admitted for surgery and had been on a hallway stretcher for three weeks.
“Hallway medicine is nothing new in my community and sadly it’s nothing new across the province. And what does the government say? What is their response? ‘Be patient,’ ” Darcy said in the legislature. “At Fraser Health, they say: ‘We did a top level review. We’re hoping to find ways to be more efficient. Be patient.’ Small comfort to that man who’s been lying in a hallway for three weeks now.”
Darcy said an elderly New Westminster woman with MS wanted home support so she would be able to live independently in her home a little bit longer. But cutbacks to home support are making that difficult. Darcy said some workers are required to visit five clients in a short, six-hour period.
“I think she deserves [home support]. But she can’t get it. We can do better. We must do better. Our seniors deserve better,” she said.
She said a lot of the home support services stories she hears are quite compelling. She maintains cutting home support isn’t cost effective because it forces patients into hospital emergency departments.
“It’s bordering on inhumane,” said Darcy in the interview. “And it’s a good place to invest. It’s penny wise and pound foolish (to cut home support). Invest in areas where it will take the pressure off the system.”
Darcy said transit and transportation are important issues in New Westminster, but all the government has done is force Metro Vancouver to hold a referendum on adding to the provincial sales tax. She said with the Liberals not officially backing the Yes side, Clark has shown “a complete lack of leadership.”
“They’re effectively hanging the mayors and the other supporters of the yes side out to dry. It’s not leadership,” said Darcy.
She claimed her New Westminster constituents have continually told her they feel they’re getting squeezed by the provincial government because of such things as medical premium increases and education cuts. (Darcy said she’s received more communication from her constituents about investment in education than any other topic.)
“I just found there were no ideas [in the throne speech]. It’s a government that’s out of gas,” said Darcy.
Clark told reporters the government has important tasks ahead, such as building the $8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam and revamping the education system to satisfy the demand for skilled labour. Although Darcy felt the throne speech lacked leadership, Clark didn’t see it that way.
“We’re sticking to the plan, and we’ve been successful with that plan,” said Clark. “I know it doesn’t make great headlines in the newspapers, but I don’t think we want to change so we can help you get a news story.”
–with file from Tom Fletcher