An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WEEKS BEFORE the B.C. election campaign is even officially underway, the pivotal issues in the two Kamloops ridings have already become very clear.
They’re a subset of major issues that go beyond the Kamloops region but that have special significance here. The governing Liberals can’t avoid them, but neither can their opponents simply criticize without offering solutions.
The biggest issue won’t be child care, taxes, the opioid crisis, education or even integrity or leadership. Certainly, those things will be debated but the elections in Kamloops-South Thompson and Kamloops-North Thompson won’t turn on them. They’ll will be decided on two key questions.
First and foremost will be health care. The chronic doctor shortage, and the accompanying anger over walk-in clinics, will dog the BC Liberals despite Health Minister Terry Lake’s attention to Kamloops and its hinterland communities with the development of alternative care facilities.
The government simply can’t shake the fact that thousands upon thousands of Kamloops residents — we heard yet another new number of 17,000 this week, compared to 20,000 and 30,000 in previous estimates — are without family doctors.
People are not convinced that walk-in medicine should be their future. Yet the New Democrats have articulated no plan to solve it. Simply saying “hire more doctors” doesn’t cut it. The NDP has a huge political opportunity but there’s no indication so far it has the ability to take advantage.
Despite it being one of the best in the world (dare I say “world class”?) our healthcare system pisses people off. Anger over parking at Royal Inland Hospital is really a symptom of a general unhappiness.
While the NDP hesitates, the Liberals can point to the approval of the business plan for the new patient-care tower, and the recent opening of the Clinical Services Building. The NDP has no choice but to support such projects, which makes it difficult to show how they would do better.
The other big issue, in second place, will be Ajax. I said in an editorial about the Throne Speech this week that the environment versus the economy will be the major battleground on a provincial scale. As much as we would like to have our cake and eat it too, we the voters will have to decide which party and which candidates best reflect our personal values — who can create the best balance without forcing us to make an outright choice between the two. We aren’t ready to pick between the planet and jobs.
The absence of a decision on the Ajax application before the election won’t stop it from being a major issue in this area. Some candidates have already said they’re against it; some haven’t said. If the reboot of the environmental assessment process doesn’t come real soon, the fence-sitters will be able to claim neutral territory until “the studies are all done.”
That may be a calculated risk, but it’s still a risk. Voters to whom the Ajax issue is key will be left to guess what uncommitted candidates might do if they achieve office, and they might guess wrong.
This won’t be an easy election, nor should it be. Candidates should be cornered on the issues — especially these two issues — and not let loose until they provide clear answers unfettered by bafflegab.