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Housing, health care and emergency preparedness discussed at BC Townhalls event

Panelists from BC Conservative Party offer views on topics

An event put on by BC TownHalls 2024 featuring speakers from the BC Conservative party drew a crowd in Campbell River on March 26 (after last week’s Mirror press deadline).

The event was billed as a non-partisan townhall and featured a panel of speakers including BC Conservative Party leader John Rustad, recently-announced, and then dropped candidate for BC Conservatives in Ladysmith, Dr. Stephen Malthouse, and Dr. Anna Kindy, BC Conservative candidate for the North Island riding. Other speakers included retired lawyer Gail Davidson, and naturopathic doctor Christoph Kind. Event organizers said invitations were sent to Premier David Eby and North Island MLA Michele Babchuk, who sent her regrets. Local politicians including Mayor Kermit Dahl, Coun. Ron Kerr, Coun. Ben Lanyon and federal Conservative candidate Aaron Gunn were also in attendance.

Over 200 people attended.

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Topics included provincial government bills 36, 31, 44 and 47, which impact health care (36), emergency preparedness (31) and housing (44 and 47).

Kind was the first speaker on the panel, discussing Bill 36. Kind was concerned that the bill was passed without proper consultation, and that under the bill, medical practitioners face increased penalties for providing misinformation. He was followed by Gail Davidson, who also spoke on Bill 36. Each speaker had prepared a slideshow to accompany their talk, and Davidson included large-print words like “Totalitarian,” “WEF,” (World Economic Forum), “WHO” (World Health Organization) alongside her bullet points. Another slide included a failed petition to recall Premier David Eby, which had been started because of Bill 36. The petition did not reach the required amount of signatures to move forward.

Bill 36 has been criticized for giving too much power to the Minister of Health. Kindy made a delegation to Campbell River City Council earlier in March about the bill.

Davidson said that the bill was “totalitarian” and amounted to a “police state.”

Kindy was the next speaker, also speaking on Bill 36 as well as on the mental health and drug crisis in Campbell River and other Island communities. Kindy spoke against the harm-reduction measures Island Health has taken, including the vending machines that provide safe paraphernalia, and the proposed detox facility to be built near the Campbell River hospital.

“Safe supply does not have evidence behind it, and it is causing harm,” Kindy said. “Overdose prevention sites don’t belong downtown, and they don’t belong in the hospital.”

Kindy also spoke about the penalties for misinformation, saying they were unfair and that “I’m considered misinformation.”

Kindy’s presentation contrasts with a study published in Harm Reduction Journal that found that safe supply programs resulted in a “decrease in the amount of fentanyl used and a decrease in injection frequency. The second change involved switching to injecting hydromorphone tablets instead of fentanyl. Finally, the third change was stopping injecting altogether and taking a safer supply of medications orally.

“Safer supply programs can contribute to reducing injection-related health risks in addition to overdose risks,” the study concluded. “More specifically, they have the potential to address disease prevention and health promotion gaps that stand-alone downstream harm reduction interventions cannot address, by working upstream and providing a safer alternative to fentanyl.”

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Kindy was followed by Malthouse. Malthouse is a doctor who had his license suspended over COVID-19 views. He was announced as the BC Conservative candidate on March 27 for the new Ladysmith-Oceanside riding. Less than one day later, the party made a statement saying he was no longer running as a candidate for the party. Malthouse’s talk focused on the Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

He began his talk by saying that “the government can take your house if they declare an emergency.”

That comment referred to a part of the act saying that the minister has the ability to appropriate or use any property for the purpose of taking emergency measures. This can include provisions needed to fight wildfires and build firebreaks. Malthouse also said that the government is likely to use climate change as an excuse to declare emergencies, which could initiate the act.

“I’m not sure how many of you (believe) in climate change, but…” Malthouse said as an aside to the audience.

The final speaker of the night was John Rustad. Rustad spoke about the housing bills, saying that they were an “authoritarian approach.”

A member of the audience asked the panel “why haven’t we heard about any of these on the news.”

“I think this is a move to impose totalitarian control, and the destruction of democracy,” said Davidson.

Rustad also answered, saying that “traditional media has a real problem. They don’t have staff any more. They don’t have a budget … I’m not trying to defend traditional media, because believe me there are things I disagree with … I can tell you, as a politician I actually very rarely watch the regular media news.”

“That’s why it’s that much more important that we do these town halls to make sure people know what’s going on,” said moderator Vicki Allenspach.

Black Press has reported on each of the bills cited during the meeting.

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