The B.C. NPD’s by-election candidate in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant supports the transfer of St. Paul’s Hospital to the district.
Melanie Mark said the relocation of the health-care facility from the West End, a plan opposed by local New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, has been “long overdue”.
“Spencer is going to advocate for his constituency and the residents that live in his constituency. This is a longstanding … historic building that has been in the West End for a number of years, so there’s no doubt there will be concerns what happens in the absence of that building. So he’s going to advocate for a strong, accessible, affordable health care in his backyard,” Mark told the Straight in a phone interview Wednesday (January 13).
“And I fully support that,” Mark continued, “just like the constituents of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant expect me to be advocating for accessible, affordable, state-of-the-art health care to address things like seniors that are … at risk, and those suffering from mental health and addictions.”
According to her, residents in the district want a new hospital.
“I think residents are excited about … the whole neighbourhood changing and getting revitalized. So the community welcomes it,” Mark said.
Mark was interviewed following media statements from the B.C. Liberal Party in previous days regarding St. Paul’s Hospital.
On January 10, Gavin Dew, the B.C. Liberal by-election candidate in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, challenged his rival to “come clean on her stance on the local redevelopment of St. Paul's Hospital at Station Street”.
“Since the by-election was called, Melanie Mark has been silent on the new St. Paul’s Hospital which is in the riding,” Dew stated. “Either it’s because she doesn’t want it or it’s because the NDP have silenced her. Either way, it’s bad for the community.”
Dew also claimed that B.C. NPD leader John Horgan and New Democrats “opposed the new hospital site for their own political gain”.
“By saying no to the new hospital, the NDP would deny the people of Vancouver a brand new, world-class facility that will help those who need it most,” Dew also said.
On January 12, the B.C. Liberal government caucus released a statement quoting Health Minister Terry Lake as saying that “it's past time for the NDP to make up their minds on a new St. Paul's Hospital”.
“When we made the announcement, the NDP wasted no time opposing the plan,” Lake said. “I directly asked opposition MLAs whether they supported this investment of more than $1 billion in a new, cutting edge health care campus – and they refused to take a stand.”
The statement cited reports in Chinese-language media suggesting than a B.C. NDP candidate, an apparent reference to Mark, has come out in support of the relocation of St. Paul’s Hospital to False Creek Flats.
“We’ve been consistent on where we stand and how we’re going to achieve our goals to deliver even better health care for British Columbians,” Lake said. “[B.C. NDP Vancouver-West End MLA] Spencer Chandra Herbert was the loudest voice when it came to opposing the new St. Paul’s, and but now it seems he may have been thrown under the by-election bus. It just shows a consistent pattern of the NDP not sticking with principles, but sticking their finger up to see which way the wind is blowing.”
Pete Fry, who is running with the B.C. Green Party, issued a statement, which cautioned against playing politics regarding the future of St. Paul’s Hospital.
Fry said on January 11 that the “project needs to be done right”.
“This is far too complex an issue to simplify into a campaign soundbite,” Fry said, “the reality is that this project will have significant impacts on the surrounding community — most notably it will put a lot of pressure on housing in the area.”
Fry also called for “comprehensive planning … along with a meaningful provincial commitment to build public housing to relieve the inevitable market pressure” that will result with the relocation of the hospital in the district.
“We need to acknowledge the kind of development this project will bring to the area and be proactive in mitigating the potential negative impacts,” Fry said. “When we completed the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan in 2014, the hospital relocation wasn't even part of the discussion.”
The by-election will be held on February 2.