It was standing room only in the cheery yellow glow of Zocalo Café as Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair entered to cheers from a crowd that had waited nearly an hour after his floatplane had to land in Nanaimo due to the arrival of the rainy season.
The NDP members in this important swing riding, recently split in two by new electoral boundaries, were excited to hear what the top dog had to say on a range of issues including the Senate scandal.
“There are seven provinces that have gotten rid of the senate,” he said, in a speech clocking in at under 20 minutes noting Nova Scotia abolished theirs 85 years ago. “Nobody is pining for the return of the senate. In fact, nobody has ever mentioned it there – or in an other province where they’ve gotten rid of it.”
The event was another stop on Mulcair’s “roll up the red carpet” tour – his bid to push to make the Senate part of Canada’s past.
It came on the heels of a Harris-Decima poll done for the Canadian Press that suggests more Canadians want Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister – at 33 per cent – than even Stephen Harper, who slid into second at 29 per cent. The survey revealed 14 per cent of Canadians would go with Mulcair.
He may not have the je ne sais quoi of Trudeau’s mystique, and in his talk he did acknowledge the Liberal surge, but here, amid a hotbed of anti-coal and anti-pipeline sentiment, Mulcair might as well have been a rock star.
In Port Moody Mulcair had pointed the finger at B.C. Senator Yonah Martin, who lost to NDP candidate Dawn Black in her bid for the federal Conservative Party in New Westminster-Coquitlam in 2008 – only to be elected to the senate.
He made no mention of that here, in stead focusing on distinguishing the NDP brand from the competition.
“From the beginning we’ve always known who we are,” he said. “Just look at the growing inequality in our society. These are the things that have to be addressed: hundreds of thousands of seniors living in poverty, 800,000 Canadian children go to school in the morning hungry.
“First Nations have been pushed to the backburner.”
He chided Trudeau for having supported mandatory minimums for pot only to turn around and jump on board the cannabis caravan.
The Island is has a special place in Mulcair’s heart. His sister Deb taught in Courtenay for a number of years and earlier this summer he and his wife hung out with Atleo National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn A-in-chut and his wife on an island outside of Tofino.
He praised the salesmanship of his predecessor, the beloved Jack Layton, and pushed for proportional representation as a way to engage the 40 per cent of Canadians who stayed home in the last election.
Layton was a man who fought off massage parlour scandal allegations with ease during one Comox Valley stop and traversed the exhibition grounds taking in the spectacle of MusicFest on others.
He brandished his cane in the Toronto convention centre in the orange wave that crushed the Liberals during the 2011 election with a characteristic glint in his eyes.
Barb Berger, a retired teacher from Comox, said that while Mulcair doesn’t have quite the same enigmatic qualities as the late Layton she sees him as a straight shooter.
“He addressed the issue of democracy,” she said. “We are going to reclaim our democracy by doing things differently than the Harper Government.”
In the race for leader that followed Layton’s tenure, Mulcair stood out, she said, recalling the convention.
“By far he was the best speaker – way, way, way above all of the other speakers,” she said. “He did it again tonight.”
She particularly liked how he keyed on the opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the Comox Valley.
“He said ‘We have a right to know,'” she said. “That’s a profoundly fundamental position.”
Bill Harrower, a provincial government manager from Comox, said he liked how Mulcair talked about the Senate reform as a broader issue than just pertaining to recent scandals. “I think it went very well,” he said, “notwithstanding the weather of course.”
He couldn’t help but note the energy in the room.
“I guess what I take out of it is the fact that people believe passionately that the government should represent them,” he said, “and the government should take their interests to heart.”
Ronna-Rae Leonard, who ran federally for the NDP in 2011, said it was nice to see Mulcair listen to the concerns of the community.
“It was an incredible event in the middle of summer,” the Courtenay councillor said. “It was a demonstration that he cares about the Comox Valley.”
With Comox and Courtenay spliced into two separate ridings the opportunities for the NDP in the next election are enormous, she said, adding the visit from Mulcair helped to galvanize the base.
“I think people will be inspired to join in,” she said, declining to comment as to whether she would run again in the next election. “We matter.”
Article appeared in the Comox Valley Echo Sept. 3, 2013
(Photo by Jamie Bowman)
The leader of the Official Opposition challenged Wildrose members attending last week’s fundraiser in Innisfail to support a more inclusive platform and help select top-notch candidates before the next provincial election.
Danielle Smith’s party had seemed poised to run away with last April’s election. Reaction to the party’s strong social conservative stance grew in the wake of several high profile gaffes in the dying days of the campaign and the party has struggled to gain provincial mindshare ever since.
“I think we learned a few lessons from the campaign, particularly in the last 10 days,” Smith said, in her opening speech Feb. 6 at the Innisfail Legion. “I would just ask that you give some consideration as we’re going through the policy process: give me a policy platform that we can run on and win.”
The $50-a-head evening wine and cheese fundraiser included speeches by MLA Kerry Towle and Smith before the floor was opened to questions from the audience.
To many locals the format reminded them of the grassroots elements that made them fall in love with the party in the first place. For Smith the event was an opportunity to hammer home the importance of constructing a “big tent” conservative brand that could ultimately unseat the reigning PC dynasty.
“I think that people recognize that you have to run on a policy platform built on ideas of consensus,” she said, in an interview with the Province. “If you build a policy platform based on divisive issues you’re not going to be able to develop a coalition that can win. I think that Albertans want a party that is going to be a party in waiting.”
Leger Marketing found Wildrose support had dipped to 28 per cent in a January 2013 survey, down from the 34 per cent of votes garnered last spring.
Smith says she’s not phased by the numbers, stressing the party still has to go through a makeover.
“I’m comfortable with where we’re at right now,” she said. “The election’s not tomorrow. The election’s three years from now. There’s a lot of work that we have to do as a party.”
At the Wildrose annual general meeting in November Smith talked about refining policies to make sure they’re “reflecting” the modern Alberta, particularly in the areas of diversity and sexual identity.
She says she’s confident more traditional-minded core Wildrose boosters in places like Innisfail will be open to the change.
These supporters packed the parking lot with heavy-duty pickup trucks adorned with accessories like bumper stickers that read “THE EARTH IS COOLING” and “DON’T BLAME ME I VOTED WILDROSE” alongside industrial refuelling pumps.
Smith praised the work of local MLA Kerry Towle and railed against Premier Alison Redford’s handling of the emergency services file, contract negotiations with doctors and questionable political donations. She also accused the PC leader of campaigning on rural issues only to turn her back on the same concerns.
“I think there’s a little bit of buyer’s remorse going on,” Smith said. “She promised considered debate. I’ve never seen such a whipped caucus.”
Melissa Werkema, 26, heard about the event on Facebook and was excited to meet the Opposition leader face to face.
“I’m proud of Danielle that she stood up for Albertans and she’s not scared,” she said. “It’s time for a change in spending. We need to get rid of the debt.”
Bob Wilkins, 70, said he appreciated how the event engaged the local audience.
“What the Wildrose is trying to do is get grassroots feedback,” he said. “We’ve got real problems.”
Peter Herman, 70, said he used to vote PC but started to feel like the party had become more distant.
“I’ve been a fan of Danielle Smith since I first heard of her,” he said. “She shoots from the hip.”
Smith says the oil and gas industry is a significant part of her vision for Alberta’s future and criticized the Conservatives for shaking up the royalty regime, instead of embarking on new pipeline projects earlier.
“Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and it is going to be that way for the foreseeable future,” she said, adding that poor planning got us into the current fiscal mess. “I think the government began to rely on having double digit gas prices, and then shale gas – the first revolution – ended up causing gas prices to go down to two to three dollars. Now with the potential revolution in shale oil technology I don’t know that we’ve seen the full impact of that yet.”
Don Martin, a 33-year-old business owner, said he likes Smith’s focus on balancing the budget and adds change must extend to the party itself.
“The Wildrose base learned a really good lesson in the last election,” he said. “The average conservative is fiscally more conservative but morally more libertarian.
“It’s the idea that people’s personal beliefs really need to be people’s personal beliefs.”
Article appeared in the Innisfail Province on Feb. 12, 2013
(Photo by Noel West)
A 28-year-old man lay on his back with blood on his face by the right-hand side of northbound QEII just past the Fas Gas near Bowden at about 7 p.m. on Sept. 20.
The Rocky Mountain House resident had stopped his Dodge 4×4 truck to handle an incident of road rage when the situation quickly escalated to a fight involving multiple men, police said.
“He pulled over and dealt with it on his own which caused an altercation on the highway,” said Peter Van Muyen, a sheriff with the Innisfail Integrated Traffic Unit, noting he’s never seen a road rage incident of this severity before.
The witness who called 911 said the men who assaulted the victim were all wearing shorts.
“Three guys beat him up and punched him out,” he said, declining to give his name.
Another witness said he saw a four-door Nissan Maxima speed off. Police are also looking for a black Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck seen leaving the scene.
As witness Darcy Jones drove along the highway he spotted a parked car, so he took a closer look. That’s when he noticed the victim “KO’d” on the shoulder.
“I seen buddy parked along the side of the road,” Jones said, referring to the witness who called 911. “So I pulled over.”
The Hinton resident immediately reached for the first aid kit he always keeps on hand in case of such an emergency. Bystanders were able to quickly start administering first aid under the setting sun as semi trucks roared by.
Within minutes Innisfail Integrated Traffic officers arrived on the scene, blocking off one lane of the highway and putting the pieces of the crime scene puzzle together.
“It was a confrontation and it ended very badly for this guy,” said Const. Stephen Molnar, an investigator with the Innisfail Integrated Traffic Services unit. “At least three or four people were engaged in a fight, plus the victim.”
A variety of emergency personnel attended the scene, including Bowden firefighters and EMS workers.
Van Muyen urges the public never to get out of their vehicle if they face a similar scenario involving road rage on the highway, advising the best thing to do is to call 911 so the police can tackle the situation.
“There were so many people involved that it is dangerous to the general public that are driving on the highway,” he said. “They’re not sure what’s going on.”
The man was taken to hospital for treatment of non-critical injuries before being released.
Police recovered opened boxes of Bud Light and Mike’s Hard Lemonade from the victim’s truck and his licence was suspended for three days as a result of new legislation. He received two charges under the Gaming and Liquor Act.
Police are seeking tips from the public that may help track down the brawlers.
“The suspects in the vehicle are still at large,” Van Muyen said. “We had other members look further but we didn’t find them.”
Versions of this story first appeared in the Innisfail Province and the Olds Albertan Sept. 25, 2012
The Patient Care Quality Offices at St. Joseph’s General Hospital and BC Ambulance Service have begun investigations into the handling of a patient who claims he fell ill from inhaling gasoline while doing auto repair work Feb. 24. Courtenay resident Gabriel Doucet says he received improper treatment for gas poisoning and charges a lack of attention to his needs may have been a result of racial profiling.
“I just really felt that I didn’t have the opportunity to express what I was going through and receive adequate treatment,” said the 27-year-old self-employed mechanic. “I’m not trying to go after the doctor. I’m not trying to go after the paramedics.”
Returning home that evening to discover gas from the tank of the 1989 Toyota truck he was in the middle of fixing had spilled all over the floor of his tiny garage, he says he felt a duty to stop the leak as quickly as possible.
“Once you have a large amount of gas that’s sitting on the shop floor it’s going to expand out,” he said. “Somebody walking by could have lit a cigarette outside of the shop and that would have started a fire.”
After about 15 minutes he finally managed to fit the old gas line back into the filter, he says, but soon ended up hunkered over a bowl inside vomiting for hours.
Roommate Orie Bloomingfield said Doucet was covered in gasoline.
“It was dripping down his arms,” he said. “His puke smelled like gasoline.”
Bloomingfield says on advice from poison control an ambulance was summoned in the early hours of Feb. 25. It arrived seven minutes later, but he says he was dismayed when one of the Caucasian employees made a comment about people who inhale gasoline as a drug.
Doucet says later, while on the way to St. Joseph’s in Comox, the same employee made a similar comment about people who inhale gasoline up north. As a half-Inuit, Doucet took the comment as evidence he was being profiled as a “gas huffing native.”
“I told him in my opinion those people are stupid,” he said, adding the tone of the comment seemed condescending. “I honestly felt like my First Nations heritage was taken into account.”
The comment reminded him of receiving training as a marine firefighter where it was suggested that recreational gas huffers shouldn’t be given oxygen and intravenous fluids right away so they suffer a bit and learn a lesson, he said.
According to Doucet neither oxygen nor intravenous fluids were administered in the ambulance or at the hospital.
BC Ambulance Service confirmed initial treatment was provided after assessing the patient as having injuries that were not life threatening, and noted oxygen is generally administered to patients when their measured blood oxygen is below 95 per cent or they are clearly exhibiting laboured or rapid breathing.
In a statement to the Echo BC Ambulance Service said it cannot comment further on the specifics of the case and noted it will be investigating the incident further. A representative from its Patient Care Quality Office will be following up directly with the patient.
“BC Ambulance Service is committed to providing high quality care to our patients,” said Kelsie Carwithen, media relations manager. “BCAS takes concerns very seriously and regret that this patient feels that a high level of service was not received.”
Doucet says another one of his roommates had to help him out of the Ambulance’s side doors upon arrival at the emergency room entrance to the hospital, and wonders if the assessment of one of the BC Ambulance Service employees could have coloured the treatment he received at the hospital.
Once inside St. Joseph’s he puked in the waiting room before seeing a doctor who referred to potential “psychological” issues he could be facing and giving him Ativan, he said.
“I’ve never been on Ativan before,” he said. “I was still really dizzy.”
Doucet says he felt frustrated because he was questioned about potential cocaine use and hooked up to an electro cardiogram.
“I was asking for oxygen and IV,” he said. “I wasn’t asking for morphine. I wasn’t asking for a type of drug that is used or abused.”
When he finally left the hospital his faith in BC health care had been diminished.
“It shakes my trust in the system,” he said. “It makes me question whether or not I should go there in the first place.”
A week later Doucet ventured back inside the garage, which still smelled so strongly of gasoline he could only stay inside for a few minutes before becoming light headed.
On a previous occasion a doctor at St. Joseph’s had failed to pinpoint problems with his appendix, he explained, despite the fact that several of his relatives have had theirs removed.
“How can we build a good relationship with our hospital?” he questioned. “If the system is going to change that change is going to be sparked by people telling their story.”
Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BC Civil Liberties Association said while she is unfamiliar with the circumstances of this particular incident government agencies have a duty not to discriminate in either an active or systemic fashion.
“If the investigation reveals that the service provider was operating on the basis of inappropriate stereotypes then it’s potentially a systemic problem that needs to be addressed,” she said. “It might be that the need for care was improperly assessed, or it could be that the provision of care was filtered through a discriminatory lens.”
Island Health said it had received a complaint about the incident and will follow up.
Leesa Ferguson, director quality and risk management at St. Joseph’s, said the hospital’s own Patient Care Quality Office takes the situation seriously and is looking into the matter.
Under its protocols the hospital first acknowledged the complaint it received from Doucet. A medical chart review, analysis and interview process is now underway. The third step will be to follow up with the patient.
“The investigation is still ongoing,” Ferguson said, adding St. Joseph’s tries to be sensitive to First Nations issues and has an aboriginal liaison nurse on staff. “We handle all complaints at the local level.”
Story first appeared in the Comox Valley Echo on March 7, 2014
St. Joseph’s General Hospital has been granted an Accreditation with Commendation mark following an extensive evaluation by a team of three surveyors Oct. 28 – Nov. 1.
The result is a coup for the organization that lost its accreditation for several months in the previous routine Accreditation Canada survey.
CEO Jane Murphy says it took coordinated effort to raise the performance of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria-owned healthcare institution to current quality levels.
“A lot of people at every level have worked very hard over the last three years,” Murphy said. “It feels really good to have completed the survey and achieved Accreditation with Commendation.”
Surveyors visited and assessed nearly every aspect of the hospital, delving into operations at both the acute wing and The Views residences.
St. Joseph’s scored well for having an engaged and committed volunteer board, a dedicated team focused on creating a culture of patient and resident-centered care and emphasis on care for the elderly, good use of an ethical framework and continued enhancement of the physical environment.
“To be able to provide good care to our patients and our residents it really is about everybody in the organization working well as a team,” she said, noting she was glad to see that reflected in the Accreditation Canada report. “It speaks to the kindness and compassion they saw exhibited throughout the organization.”
The hospital also scored well thanks to its strong engagement with community partners such as Island Health, North Island College, the University of British Columbia and the North Island Hospitals Project.
Out of eight key service element areas just two, Safety and Effectiveness, were found to have more than a handful of criteria that need work. Under the Safety dimension, surveyors deemed 20 out of 505 criteria “unmet.”
Murphy said one of the ways the hospital plans to improve this result is to address “medication reconciliation” by gaining a deeper understanding of the various medicines the patient already takes at home, what is being prescribed and building clarity into the hospital discharge process.
Under Effectiveness, another of the key service areas pinpointed by surveyors, who designated 20 out of 642 criteria “unmet,” the hospital is pledging to investigate ways it can work on “doing the right things to achieve the best possible results.”
For example, the cystoscopy department has recently been moved to another area of the hospital and further evaluation of those operations could result in improved care, Murphy said.
“In health care we move fast,” she said, noting the department has faced a lot of changes such as new hours of operation. “I think it’s really important to stay focused on what the real intent is of our organization and that’s to provide care and services to patients and residents.”
Other areas the hospital can work on include examining the future role of St Joseph’s in the community, enhancing change management strategies, de-cluttering equipment and supplies throughout the hospital, and beefing up risk and mitigation strategies.
“The organization will also benefit from the continued development of its media relations strategy,” the report stated.
Both the Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging departments received accreditation under a separate program earlier this year.
Article appeared in the Comox Valley Echo on Nov. 19, 2013