The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?

The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?

It was a tough growing season for tomatoes this year, but they look great anyway  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: Do BC Liberals retake the Courtenay-Comox riding from Greens and NDP?


Polling stations for the Oct. 24 BC provincial election in fewer than 100 hours. Election Day is officially this Saturday, but nearly half of the 2017 vote total have already been cast.

Some 800,000 people have voted early — when they were less likely to have social distancing problems — or by mail, which is by far the easiest and most convenient method to vote.

So it’s late, but never too late for a few observations.


The BC Liberals lost the Courtenay-Comox riding in 2017 because a Conservative candidate siphoned off more than 2,000 votes. Assuming that most of those votes would have gone to the Liberals, they would have won the riding without a whiff of a recount.

The news gets worse for the NDP.

Many loyal NDP voters have grumbled about Premier John Horgan because A) he didn’t kill Site C; B) has embraced LNG; and, C) continues to allow timber companies to mow through old-growth timber.

Based on that, do you really believe the left will split their vote this year more generously between the NDP and the BC Green Party? If so, then the Courtenay-Comox Liberals are probably already chilling their champagne.


Would a BC Liberal victory in the Courtenay-Comox riding be a good thing or a bad thing?

That feels like a funny question to ponder because the BC Liberal Party has a terrible and genuinely unlikable leader in Andrew Wilkinson, who wants to turn the clock back on social progress in this province. Remember Social Credit?

Plus, who can forget how the BC Liberals destroyed education and social programs when voters last gave them the keys to the provincial budget? Not many educators voting Liberal lately.

And creating a $10 billion-plus hole in the provincial budget by eliminating the PST for a year would give Awful Andrew the perfect excuse to start chopping again.

On the other hand, if your interest is narrow enough to warrant only a comeuppance for Island Health’s shameful handling of several Comox Valley Hospital and health care issues, then BC Liberal candidate Brennan Day might suit your purposes.

When Decafnation asked the Courtenay-Comox candidates how they would address the many issues surrounding Island Health’s reduction of pathologist services on the North Island, Day was the only one who promised to press for an external, independent review. His response was researched and thoughtful.

Our incumbent MLA, Ronna-Rae Leonard, rightly blamed the previous BC Liberal government for fostering an environment of privatization in health care, a sentiment we whole-heartedly endorse.

But that doesn’t excuse Leonard’s deliberate avoidance of her responsibility to represent her constituents on this issue. For the last three years, she’s done nothing, zippo, to rectify the situation. Doctors have met with her. No action. Citizen groups have lobbied and written to her. Nada.

Leonard professes support for returning full pathology services, but the lack of action during her first term in office undermines her credibility.

In her response to Decafnation, Leonard said, “That’s why we’re hiring more people now.” This is untrue, if she’s referring to general pathologists.

Island Health is trying (unsuccessfully) to hire new anatomical pathologists, but only because the two respected and well-liked pathologists serving this area for decades resigned in protest two months ago. There are no pathologists at the Comox Valley Hospital today. The jobs are open.

And then there’s the Green Party. Sadly, by her own admission, the slow decline of health care services on the North Island hasn’t made it onto the radar of Green candidate Gillian Anderson.

So where does that leave us? Voting is complicated this time. The numbers point to a BC Liberal victory in Courtenay-Comox. But, hey, don’t listen to us, we predicted Trump would lose in 2016.
Were we wrong to raise our eyebrows over this comment?

While discussing how the Comox Valley Regional District might reinvent the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, A Person Who Shall Go Unnamed lamented the time and effort being spent on the topic, and then added, “You know, this is only about a million or so dollars and that’s really just a drop in the bucket of our whole regional budget.”

It’s true, the CVRD annual budget goes north of $130 million, so this person has a point.

But, wait, the regional directors are still discussing $1 million-plus of taxpayer dollars. Imagine what a local non-profit could do with that much money? What could Lush Valley do, or the John Howard Society or a Joint Child Care Committee for the Comox Valley?

Not pocket change for these folks.

Isn’t the enduring question really about what value the whole community enjoys from any public expenditure, no matter how small, and whether our collective social values suggest the money could be put to better use somewhere else?




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Comox Valley Hospital loses another medical service: how the candidates respond

Comox Valley Hospital loses another medical service: how the candidates respond

The Comox Valley Hospital  |  Decafnation file photo

Comox Valley Hospital loses another medical service: how the candidates respond


The Comox Valley Hospital no longer has any on-site pathologists. Dr. Chris Bellamy and Dr. Wayne Donn both resigned on June 21, exasperated by Island Health’s refusal to adequately staff its North Island medical laboratories. Their last day was Aug. 21.

Their absence for the past two months has caused chaos at the CVH laboratory and lengthened the time that patients wait to receive test results. This has provoked some emotional patients to turn up at the lab, desperate for their biopsy results.

While this is a new reality at the Comox Valley Hospital, the reduction in on-site pathology services at the Campbell River Hospital has impacted the North Island for several years. It’s part of Island Health’s plan to centralize some medical services in Victoria.

But despite pleas for help from family doctors and other health care workers, individuals and groups such as the Citizens for Quality Health Care and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board and other North Island municipal governments, neither Island Health or the NDP provincial government have responded with any relief.

And while the North Island’s concerns have focused on patient care, there are also allegations of conflict of interest within Island Health and the claim that taxpayers are no longer receiving the services they were promised and continue to pay for.

Decafnation asked each of the provincial candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding to address this issue (with no limit on length). Here are their unedited responses (in the order they were received):



While I am unaware of all of the factors involved with this decision, in principle, I am in favour of health care being delivered in patients’ home communities as much as possible. This strengthens our local healthcare system and creates jobs. When patients and families are waiting longer for test results, there is added worry and stress. What is the price of additional sleepless nights waiting for a result?

As the MLA for Courtenay-Comox, I would listen to the concerns of individuals across the riding and I would work towards a solution that addresses all of the issues involved.




BRENNAN DAY — BC Liberal Party

I took the time to consult with Dr. Bellamy on this issue, and what I heard was extremely concerning.

When St. Josephs was running, our community had a full-service laboratory, providing both anatomical and clinical pathology services; they had the autonomy to hire staff and general pathology was the priority with a focus on patient care here in the Comox Valley

During the planning phase of the new hospital, the pathology department was designed to be full service, in keeping with the St Josephs model, which was working well. The costing and design of the new hospital had this budgeted. At some point in the consultation process, Island Health pushed for microbiology to be removed from the hospital and centralized in Victoria, an experiment that had been tried in Campbell River previously with a resulting marked increase in turnaround times of results.

During the hospital planning process, the head of microbiology for Island Health lobbied the VIHA hospital planning committee for removal of microbiology services to Victoria while being a shareholder in a private company providing these services and therefore having a financial interest in the decision; the fact that this scandalous move was not more broadly reported is shameful as it has directly impacted the quality of healthcare here in the North Island.

Once the plan to centralize services in Victoria had been rammed through by VIHA, the taxpayers in the Comox Valley were stuck with the same tax bill, but considerably less local services and longer wait times. VIHA is currently in the process of transferring more clinical lab services from Comox Valley hospital to the private company in Victoria with further erosion of local services.

This is unacceptable.

Our current MLA was contacted multiple times by concerned physicians, nurses, and techs, but their concerns fell on deaf ears and no action was taken to advocate on behalf of the Comox Valley.

An independent external review must immediately be undertaken to analyze the decisions made by VIHA, as the costs have not been reduced by this decision, only the service we are receiving.

We need to build compassion back into the healthcare we are paying for in the Comox Valley, which was so well done by St Josephs for decades, and look hard at whether the VIHA regional governance model is really working, or if it is simply an organization with a bloated middle and little to no accountability to the taxpayers of the Island.

Our community and those affected by long wait times for serious diagnosis through this system are being ignored. I will make sure I advocate loudly to put compassion back into local healthcare, and ensure we are getting the services we deserve.


RONNA-RAE LEONARD — BC New Democrat Party

The challenge of privatized services is ensuring profit does not override the protection of the public interest. The previous BC Liberal government facilitated the privatization of many services that people rely on, from hospitals to hospital services, from long term care to home care, and so much more. There have been many negative consequences that the John Horgan government turned its attention toward, to bring the public interest back into the forefront.

We repealed the BC Liberal’s Bill 29 and Bill 94 and then introduced Bill 47 to remove the major financial incentives of contract flipping for companies which created an underpaid and unstable healthcare workforce and deprived seniors of a proper standard of care. We brought back community homecare to direct government services when homecare services became compromised. We brought the contracts for laundry and food services at the Comox and Campbell River Hospital back into the public system.

The quality of care and timeliness of service is also at the root of the concerns over pathology service. The BCNDP is committed to providing the care people need where and when they need it. A commitment to a 10-year cancer care plan demonstrates the closer to home commitment for the North Island, with a new Cancer Centre in Nanaimo.

The pathology services contract was awarded under the BC Liberals and was extended for one more year. It will be reviewed after that. We absolutely agree that lab services should be maintained in Courtenay and Campbell River, that’s why we’re hiring more people now. We’ve accomplished much, but there is still so much more to do. We can’t afford to go back to the BC Liberals.



Decafnation encourages comments and a free exchange of ideas about our articles. Please limit your comments to fewer than 200 words. 







The 2020 provincial election takes place on Oct. 24.

Advance voting is underway at various locations today in Comox, Courtenay and Merville and tomorrow in Black Creek, Comox and Courtenay.

Candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding are incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), Gillian Anderson (BC Greens) and Brennan Day (BC Liberals).

In the last election (2017), 66.89 percent of the riding’s 43,671 registered voters cast a ballot. The results were:

NDP Ronna-Rae Leonard received 10,886 votes or 37.36%

BC Liberal Jim Benninger — 10,697 votes or 36.72%

Green Ernie Sellentin — 5,351 votes or 18.37%

Leah McCulloch — 2,201 votes or 7.55%


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The Week: We’re back but CV pathologists are gone — and, face mask deniers beware

The Week: We’re back but CV pathologists are gone — and, face mask deniers beware

Even young owls are wise enough to know the North Island is losing medical services  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: We’re back but CV pathologists are gone — and, face mask deniers beware


If you start hearing complaints from people about how long their biopsy results have taken, don’t be surprised. Island Health finally got its wish and forced out Comox Valley general pathologists, Dr. Chris Bellamy and Dr. Wayne Dunn.

The pair of well-respected doctors resigned on Aug. 21, leaving the Comox Valley without any onsite pathologists. This means a serious degradation of health care services available locally.

Island Health is determined to remove medical services from the North Island and centralize them in Victoria. They took away onsite clinical pathology services from the Campbell River Hospital several years ago to the dismay of that community’s doctors and other health care professionals who have protested and demanded reinstatement.

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board has joined that fight. But pleas to the North Island MLAs for help have gone unanswered.

Watch for more on this story next week.

Congratulations — again — to the Cumberland Community Forest Society for completing their largest single land purchase. In early September, the CCFS closed the deal to preserve an additional 225 acres. This means more forested land that was threatened by logging interests can forever be enjoyed by hikers and mountain bikers. Future generations will look back on what the society has achieved with admiration for their foresight and perseverance.

It’s hard to take the criticism of Premier John Horgan’s Oct. 24 election call too seriously. Yes, there is a pandemic and there’s no vaccine or proven cure for the COVID virus on the horizon. There may never be either. However, British Columbians are carrying on their lives safely. The infection data shows it. The grocery stores are full. People are buying cars, motor homes, televisions and going in and out of all kinds of stores and coffee shops. Kids are back to school. So it shouldn’t be difficult to arrange safe polling stations. And listen, if people willingly waited in lines to enter Costco or buy a latte, they should be happy to do the same to vote.

Speaking of masks, why are so many people not wearing them? Most grocery shoppers we see wear masks. But at other stores, the percentage of non-maskers ranks significantly higher. True, some of these people might have forgotten their mask at home — seems like we need multiple masks these days, tucked away in our cars and coats — but what’s up with the other people who just don’t seem to care? We don’t promote or condone mask-shaming, but, sweet mercy, those people look like the fools.

The breaking news today that US President Trump and his wife have both tested positive for the virus feels like karmic destiny: what goes around, comes around. We hope for his speedy recovery, as we would for anyone with COVID. But isn’t it tempting to think maybe he should suffer a little? Trump has downplayed the virus while more than 200,000 of his constituents died and millions of other lives have been permanently altered, either directly through as yet unknown long-term medical complications or via the collapsed economy. Trump has refused to wear a mask and mocked his opponent, Joe Biden, for doing so. We shudder to imagine how he’s going to spin this irony on Twitter.




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