Vaughn Palmer: NDP rejoices as United and Conservative MLAs attack each other

Opinion: Centre-right infighting increases NDP’s chances of re-election

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VICTORIA – While members of the press gallery were recently sequestered in the budget impasse, Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon used his initial position in question period to advocate for unvaccinated healthcare workers.

BC was about to become the latest province in Canada and the only jurisdiction in North America to exclude unvaccinated healthcare workers “from its own healthcare system,” Falcon noted.

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Would the New Democrats lift their “pointless and divisive” ban and “rehire the healthcare workers they laid off”?

He put the question to Prime Minister David Eby, but Health Minister Adrian Dix responded.

“The vaccination mandate that the opposition leader is referring to is one that the opposition, by the way, the BC United opposition, asked for and applauded when it was introduced,” he reminded the camera.

It arose from an order from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, “who is a world-leading scientist and an extraordinary civil servant.”

Also one who, in the midst of a pandemic, said that health professionals who do not recognize the effectiveness of vaccines should consider a different line of work.

“The purpose of that provincial health order was to protect the most vulnerable British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dix continued.

“We continue to act to protect British Columbia patients from COVID-19. “There are hundreds of people living in hospital right now with COVID-19 in British Columbia.”

So much for politics.

Dix then delivered a heavy dose of politics.

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“Just because the opposition leader wants to repeal a public health law, which was introduced under a British Columbia Liberal government, because of some kind of race to the bottom between opposition parties, doesn’t mean we won’t do it. continue to respect the provincial health officer and her orders.”

The “race to the bottom” was a reference to how British Columbia Conservative Leader John Rustad has also been calling on the government to reinstate unvaccinated workers, “health care heroes,” as he calls them.

But Falcón, in a gesture of superiority, claims that he defended that position before Rustad.

“I just want to remind this House that I was the first leader to call for the return of thousands of unvaccinated healthcare workers on June 22, 2022, almost two years ago.”

The leader of BC United and the Minister of Health did it for the second time.

Falcon, after claiming British Columbia was losing unvaccinated health-care workers to Alberta and the United States, asked when “will the New Democrats bring these health-care workers back and help our health-care system today?” ”.

Dix: “The facts are the facts: more than 99 per cent of healthcare workers in British Columbia got vaccinated, because getting vaccinated was good for them and good for patients.”

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He gave a second partisan shot, echoing the first: “When our provincial health officer makes a decision on vaccines, we don’t start by applauding it and then turn around because the Conservative Party is advocating and taking a different approach.”

Rustad has been pushing hard on this issue since taking leadership a year ago. He has created appearances on this and other issues that the two-member Conservative caucus is setting the agenda for BC’s 26 United MLAs.

You could call it a case of “tail-wagging dog.”

Except, according to opinion polls, although the British Columbia Conservatives are behind in the seat count, they are far ahead in voter preference.

So which is the tail and which is the dog?

The rivalry has created an increasingly toxic relationship between the two center-right parties in the legislature.

In question period Thursday, Conservative House Leader Bruce Banman was using his position to berate the New Democrats for gaps in the health care system that contributed to the tragic death of Sophia, a Nanaimo woman 23 years old.

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Then he suddenly turned and pointed an accusing finger at his former BC United colleagues.

“As we have heard in this chamber,” Banman said, evidently quoting the New Democrats, “the leader of the Opposition was the one who made the cuts to British Columbia’s health care system that brought British Columbia’s health care system to this point.” .

The allegation sparked an explosion of outrage from BC United members, who sit on the same side of the house as the Conservatives, separated only by a sort of political demilitarized zone formed by the two Green MLAs.

The main goal of question period is to hold the government to account. But here were the Conservatives and BC United doing each other a favor.

The New Democrats took all this in with open glee, rightly concluding that they could take the rest of the day off while the opposition parties were attacking each other.

The dynamics in the House these days provide the government with something of an insurance policy, in case the NDP’s long lead in opinion polls begins to falter as the fall election campaign intensifies.

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The New Democrats could still win big against a pair of opposition parties that are more effective at harassing each other than keeping the government on the defensive.

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