Horgan, Bond trade barbs over PG surgical tower

It was an innocuous enough question.

At the end of Premier John Horgan’s news conference at the BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George last week, CKPG’s Cheryl Jahn asked for an update on when the city can expect a new surgical tower at UHNBC.

A new surgical tower was one of the previous Liberal government’s Hail Mary announcements rushed out the door days before the writ was dropped on the 2017 election. So, almost two years on, it’s a legitimate question.

Horgan was definitely ready for the question. He even told us poor scribes gathered for the event he had been briefed that Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond had been raising a bit of a ruckus as to why construction wasn’t underway. So, he was ready and blamed the previous Liberal government while tearing a strip off Bond at the same time.

“The way it came to me was that she didn’t think Fort St. James deserved a hospital before a tower was built here,” said Horgan. “My response to Shirley is ‘where have you been?’ If there was a concept plan, (Health) Minister (Adrian) Dix would be able to effect it. For 16 years there was no concept plan.”

The process for building a large capital project, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, involves developing a site plan in the community. That is followed by the development of a concept plan. Once a concept plan is approved, which means there is money in the budget, a business plan is developed, the project goes to tender and building begins.

Dix said in April that the concept plan was received by the ministry in December of 2017, way too late for 2018 budget deliberations. Ministry staff, he said, is working on the project.

Horgan also echoed another point that Dix made last April … other health care infrastructure projects in the North are just critical too.

“We’re going to work with Northern Health to meet the needs of citizen in Prince George,” he said. “But we also have to meet the needs of citizens Terrace, in Dawson Creek, and in Fort St. James who were also ignored for 16 years.”

He accused the Liberals of promising a new hospital for Terrace, for years, but not delivering, something that the Liberals have done in Terrace.

“When we formed government we went to the officials at Health and said ‘where’s the plan for the hospital in Terrace?’ and they looked at us as if we had come off a spaceship. There was no plan. For Bond to say that we’re not moving fast enough for a tower in Prince George, if she wants to know the reason, she should look in the mirror.”

Ouch.

Bond, responded with her own shot across Horgan’s bow.

“Wow this was 5 minutes after he bragged about working together with local MLAs, he may want to check the history of investment in health infrastructure under our govt – obviously didn’t get a briefing,” she tweeted when she heard of Horgan’s comments.

She’s got a point there. Horgan made the comments about the surgical tower immediately following his address to 1,100 delegates at the resources forum where he talked about working collaboratively with opposition MLAs, naming Bond specifically.

But then Bond couldn’t help but drag out the Liberals’ favourite criticism of the NDP government of 2019 … that being the NDP government of 1999.

“Well I can tell you this – the last time the NDP were in power they managed to generate a 6,000-person rally in the #CityofPG because of the state of healthcare, we’ve come a long way since then – too bad @jjhorgan didn’t stay long enough to do a tour,” she tweeted.

Ouch again.

If anyone thinks the muckraking, from all sides, in Victoria has diminished at all, think again.