B.C. Liberal leader plans to press NDP on crime, health care, affordability

Just a few days after the B.C.’s opposition Liberal leader secured his seat in the legislature, he is taking aim at the NDP’s approach to healthcare, safety, and affordability. 

Saturday night, Kevin Falcon won a byelection with a landslide of votes to represent the Vancouver-Quilchena region in Victoria. 

Once votes are verified Falcon insists he will pressure the NDP for answers on its failures to address crime in urban areas, doctor shortages, increasing healthcare wait times and rising home, fuel and food costs since the NDP was elected in 2017.

Growing sense of unsafe B.C. communities, Falcon claims

Falcon says people in B.C. are feeling unsafe in communities due to incidents of repeat offenders being released without charges, only to reoffend again.

“I think there’s a growing sense of communities, that communities are no longer safe. And the fundamental job that that government has is to keep the community safe, to make people feel like they can walk in their communities and feel safe,” he told media Wednesday. 

Falcon emphasizes the government has failed in keeping communities safe, “And that concerns me greatly.”

In Vancouver alone, police reported earlier this year that stranger attacks are happening at a rate of around four a day.

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Angela Marie MacDougall with Battered Women’s Support Services has said there’s been a consistent pattern in the escalating attacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic “without a doubt an increase in stranger assaults of women including Asian women, including elderly women, including Indigenous and other women of colour.”

Falcon also spoke to reports of property break-ins impacting people’s perceptions of safety in their community. 

“We will continue to hold this government to account for their lack of progress in dealing with that fundamental issue of keeping communities safe,” he said. 

Health care suffering in B.C.: Falcon

The Liberal leader says health care is suffering as one in five people in B.C. do not have a family doctor and wait times at hospital emergency wards and walk-in clinics are hours long.

“You have individuals that are not getting the kind of proper long attitudinal care and the attention that they need, which means that you’re going to have underlying health symptoms that they’re not even aware of, that could become much more serious challenges,” Falcon warns.

Not only are these challenges impactful to the healthcare system, it will also impact the public Falcon adds. 

Last month, Medigap, a B.C.-based online service that lets people know how long they have to wait, analyzed data from 2021 and found that, on average, people were waiting about an hour to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic.

The wait time to see a walk-in clinic doctor in B.C. is one of the worst in Canada, according to data. 

Victoria saw the worst delays in Canada at a staggering 161-minute average.

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Falcon says he believes the NDP does not realize doctors — particularly family physicals — “are really small business.”

He says the challenges imposed on small businesses are being felt by doctors. 

“Doctors are facing a situation where they’re dealing with a whole bunch of paperwork that they don’t get reimbursed for. They’re dealing with paying the highest personal income tax rates in North America right here in British Columbia, they’ve got the highest housing prices they have to deal with, and that’s a struggle for them and their families. So all of these affordability issues plus the pressure plus the red tape make it not worthwhile to be a family doctor.”

The barriers are why family physicians are leaving clinics to practice medicine in another area, Falcon says. “But the problem is the patients are paying the price.”

Additionally, with high housing prices and gas prices, B.C.’s unaffordable prices are “costing British Columbians too much.”

“They’re getting frustrated. And they need a government that understands that leaving more money in their pockets is actually the right way to go so that they can look after and deal with a lot of the challenges they face economically.”

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Premier John Horgan has defended the rising fuel taxes, saying they go towards building roads, funding public transportation, and modernizing infrastructure.

Preliminary results show Falcon has won 57 per cent of the vote in a byelection with 84 per cent of ballot boxes reporting.

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