Comment: If you write to an elected official, don’t expect a reply

A commentary by the former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, who is now a resident of Parksville.

This is an incredible story. I suspect there are many who will not believe the following: As a result of a medical practice closing on east Vancouver Island and the consequent loss of a family doctor for 2,000 people (including my wife and me), I began to inquire into the nature of just what was going on in heath care in my province and country.

After unsatisfactory responses locally and provincially, I zeroed in on the Canada Health Act, federal legislation that essentially governs the operation of health care in the country.

Although constitutionally health care is provincial and delivered provincially, this act provides the means by which the federal government gets involved in health care.

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However, the transfer of the money comes with conditions described in the act and which must be met for the transfer of these funds to occur. They involve five principles, which are:

Public administration

Universality

Portability

Comprehensiveness

Accessibility

It is my contention that with closings of medical practices like the one on Vancouver Island, the probability of violations of the conditions of the act is great. For example, the concept of accessibility (reasonable accessibility is mentioned in the act) is difficult to maintain when in this specific case, the nearest family doctor is in another regional district, some 75 kilometres away and to which there is no public transit.

The last Statistics Canada release on doctors in Canada indicated that in 2017, 4.7 million people were without a family doctor. Some commentators say it is near six million now.

I wrote the federal minister of health seeking a review of the Canada Health Act to see whether the conditions of the act are being met in British Columbia.

She did not respond but had a division of her department respond, no names, just the Strategic Policy Branch. I replied to the minister on Dec. 11 indicating that I expected a written response from her with her signature, that she was the responsible person to me as a citizen and taxpayer, not a person or a branch of her department.

She is the elected one; all the others are employees responsible to her. I am waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, I have tried to enlist the support of local municipal elected councillors, of which there are 12, asking for their written support of this effort.

Only two have responded: the mayor of Parksville and one councillor. No response from any of the five elected representatives in Qualicum Beach. The mayor of Parksville gave his support and I have had a meeting with him.

I have contacted my MLA, Michelle Stilwell, and she has responded but has not provided her support . She referred me to the Liberal health critic, whose office bungled an appointment that was supposed to happen between Christmas and New Year’s.

Local MP Gord Johns has simply provided automated responses to my letters.

I wrote all 42 MPs for the B.C., two of whom were party leaders, of the Greens and the New Democrats.

I received eight automated replies and two live replies .

The two live replies were from Brad Vis (Mission-Masqui-Fraser Canyon) who referred me to my local MP (who I cannot contact ) and would do nothing else, and Paul Manly (Nanaimo Ladysmith) who refused to support my efforts but talked about the local efforts that must be made generally on health care.

So two out of 12 locally and 10 out of 42 federally sent replies, only two of which were live, non-automated replies.

A 16 per cent response locally. And 4.5 per cent federally.

As if to add insult to injury — in my request to the MPs I mentioned whether they could introduce a private member’s bill in Parliament on the issue.

Manly, in his live reply, said this:

“In the private members’ lottery, my number came up in the 200s so it is not likely that I will be able to table a private member’s bill during this parliament unless I am able to do it through another method other than my private member’s allocated spot in the order of precedence.”

Such is the state of our democracy in our country as I have experienced it.

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