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B.C. Premier Eby facing questions over rally-style announcements

Premier David Eby Tuesday faces questions about using public funds for campaign-style announcements
Premier David Eby Tuesday, June 18, announced a new stand-alone kidney unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Premier David Eby is defending himself against charges he is using public funds for campaign-style events months before this year's provincial election.

"We will continue to right up until the writ period on the priorities that I set out when I was sworn in, which include health care, cost of living and issues like housing, safe communities and building a clean economy," he said Tuesday, June 18. "(If) British Columbians are unhappy with that, then absolutely they can vote us out. But the contrast will be clear (during the) election about the path we're going on and the perspective of (Conservative Party of B.C. Leader) John Rustad and (B.C. United Leader) Kevin Falcon." 

Eby made these comments in Surrey, where he formally announced a new stand-alone kidney care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital expected to open in 2025. However, B.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix had discussed the project in March 2024. According to government, the estimated capital cost of this project is $85 million with $84 million coming from the province and $1 million from the Surrey Hospitals Foundation. Surrey, he said, needs the additional health care support given its population growth.

"Since being sworn in as premier, my focus has been on accelerating the shovels in the ground and getting these projects done for the people of Surrey," he said. 

The announcement not only featured Eby and Dix — two Vancouver-area MLAs — but also B.C. Education Minister Rachna Singh, B.C.'s Forests Minister Bruce Ralston, B.C.'s Minister of State for Trade Jagrup Brar and MLAs Garry Begg and Mike Starchuk. The latter group all happen to be MLAs for Surrey, a key electoral battleground.

While Singh is the local MLA for the hospital, the presence of the other Surrey-area MLAs gave Tuesday's announcement the flavour of an event often seen during an election campaign -- a main speaker -- in this case Eby -- surrounded by local candidates -- in this case, sitting MLAs set to run again in the provincial election. 

Tuesday's event also included at least three critical references to Falcon and Rustad, their names often appearing within a breath of each other to erase any distinction. Eby also used a question about a lawsuit against the provincial government revolving around medical assistance in dying to attack the provincial Conservatives. 

"I will point out that there are some pretty clear distinctions between the political parties and some of the ideology that has already been coming forward from John Rustad's party about sensitive issues of health care access for British Columbians on issues like access to reproductive help and I assure you to access to the legal right to MAID in British Columbia," Eby said. 

The kidney unit announcement followed Monday's about the government purchase of ICBC's headquarters in North Vancouver. That event featured Eby as well B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming and B.C.'s Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, who is the local MLA. Also present during that announcement were B.C's Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility Dan Coulter, MLA for Chilliwack, and Susie Chant, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour. 

Eby was also asked whether he was using public funds to campaign for re-election then and his answer bore a striking resemblance to his answer Tuesday.

"This is a part of a continuing stream of work to support British Columbians with cost of living, with the cost of housing, with cost of car insurance, the cost of daily life wherever we can," he said. "We are going to keep doing that work and we are going to keep doing it right up until the election and if we are fortunate, we will be able to keep doing that work after the election, if we get the support of British Columbians to do it."  

On Monday, Eby used a question about a lawsuit against the provincial government over short-term rental legislation to criticize Rustad and Falcon.

"Without that (housing created through the legislation) the province cannot succeed," Eby said. "And I cannot understand why John Rustad and Kevin Falcon opposed these basic steps on housing, ensuring that homes are used for people to live in, instead of as a short-term rental."

-with files from Anna Burns

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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