Some familiar faces from Richmond met with Premier John Horgan on Saturday to advance several local causes.
Four NDP candidates, including Coun. Chak Au, Lyrien Chiu, Kelly Greene and Aman Singh — all of whom failed to unseat the BC Liberal Party in their respective ridings on the May 9 provincial election — spoke to Horgan after he delivered his speech to the BC New Democratic Party annual convention in Victoria.
“We expressed our concerns over many issues,” said Au.
At the top of the list was a new acute care tower for Richmond Hospital.
“The big thing is the hospital. We talked to the Premier about the need for a new tower. There is an urgency with donations hanging in the balance. So, we asked them to ensure this will be in the next budget,” said Au.
Prior to the election, the structurally compromised tower was in the concept planning stage and the Liberals promised to commence the business plan by this fall.
A business plan could take up to 18 months, leaving little wiggle room to get final approval by 2020, in time for the Richmond Hospital Foundation to contribute $40-50 million for the $283 million project by Vancouver Coastal Health (estimate).
Typically, such projects are first entered into a three-year budget, so February’s budget could include dollars for 2020 construction.
Liberal MLA Teresa Wat was criticized for not taking action on the hospital during her tenure as Minister for International Trade. Since the election, she has pressed Minister of Health Adrian Dix for a timeline.
But Au said Richmond needs an inside voice to the NDP government.
“We feel Richmond is in an odd, unique situation. We have the NDP government in power but we have no MLAs represented in the government. So I think there’s a gap here for who is going to bring the issues to government. We felt we needed to establish a link to government,” said Au.
Meanwhile, Greene said she’s spoken to Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming about the need to expedite seismic upgrades. Greene turned to politics after co-founding Richmond Parents Stand United to critique the past Liberal government for stalling on remediation work on 24 elementary schools.
Au said members also asked about the George Massey Tunnel crossing.
“He said things are on track and they are doing their review,” said Au.
As well, farmland protection was discussed. Au said the group asked for the 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax to be imposed on farmland, to curb speculation.
As a councillor, Au allowed for double the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines for house size, last May. Since, the NDP has shown signs it will legislate house sizes.
When asked about this discrepancy, Au said 11,000-square-foot homes was a “reasonable compromise” and the City of Richmond imposed stricter limits (than the Ministry) on the percentage of farm land that can be developed.
After forming a community group to oppose marijuana legalization, Au said he did not raise the matter of provincial regulations with Horgan, whom he struck a campaign deal with to vote independently on some social issues.
Au took heat from his conservative supporters for joining the NDP, a government that favours drug decriminalization.