It was billed as a town-hall meeting on developing a national seniors’ health strategy, but it served as an opening barrage in the local federal Liberal campaign for this fall’s election.
Most of some 50 people who attended a gathering with federal Liberal health critic Hedy Fry Friday at The Pantry in South Surrey declared themselves either longtime Liberals, or said they were there to support the two potential candidates for the newly redrawn South Surrey-White Rock riding, Joy Davies and Dr. Peter N. Njenga (both of whom were present).
Some were former health-care practitioners and some were seniors who voiced concerns about the future of health care. Most already seemed convinced that a first step toward developing a more effective system would be to vote Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government out of office.
It was a theme hammered home in Fry’s speech to attendees at the meeting, which was hosted by former Surrey councillor and past Liberal candidate Judy Higginbotham.
MP for Vancouver Centre, Fry – a former medical doctor and president of the Vancouver Medical Association and B.C. Medical Association – accused the Harper government of failing to provide leadership for health care in Canada, particularly for a burgeoning senior population.
“By 2036, we will have doubled the number of seniors in the country, and by 2086 we will have quadrupled the number of people over 80,” she said.
Canada was ranked fourth in the world out of 10 countries providing universal health care, in an international survey conducted in 1994, she said – but in a similar survey conducted last year, placed 10th out of 11.
“We are in a race to the bottom and will succeed in getting to the bottom,” she said.
Fry noted the 2002 Romanow Commission on the future of health care had shown that hospital-based systems need to be replaced by comprehensive community-based models.
“The best place to deliver care is not always a hospital and the best people to deliver care are not always physicians,” she said.
“Good health care is about having transportation… about having income stability,” she said, noting that one in 10 Canadians can’t afford the drugs they need and one in four don’t take the the drugs they are supposed to take “and end up back in hospital.”
The riding association is also hosting political author Michael Harris later this month at a brunch fundraiser for local federal Liberals, but organizers say they invite “any party affiliations or unaffiliated” to the event.
Harris will be at the Pacific Inn on May 31 from 10:30 a.m. to talk about his book, Party of One, which paints Harper in a negative light.
As of Peace Arch News press time Tuesday, the only candidate officially endorsed by a party in the South Surrey-White Rock riding for the Oct. 19 election has been former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts for the Conservatives, who hopes to succeed retiring MP Russ Hiebert.