VICTORIA — The B.C. Conservatives launched a bitter attack on Dr. Bonnie Henry this week, accusing the provincial health officer of promoting “the ideological agenda of this extreme leftist NDP government.”
“In the midst of a health-care staffing crisis, Dr. Bonnie Henry and this NDP government have banned thousands of health care workers from working in B.C.’s hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and ERs,” Conservative house leader Bruce Banman charged during question period Wednesday.
Hence his call for Premier David Eby to “fire Dr. Henry and hire back the thousands of health care workers who were kicked to the curb.”
In making the call, Banman made a point of declaring that he was not, himself, one of those anti-vaxxers.
“As a medical professional” — he’s a chiropractor — “who is, personally, twice vaccinated, this is not about opposing the jab,” he assured the house. “It is about ending the medical tyranny of this NDP government and Dr. Bonnie Henry. It’s time to be held accountable.”
Responding for the government was Health Minister Adrian Dix.
He defended Henry’s record in presiding over a succession of effective vaccination drives in a province with some of the best results in managing the COVID-19 outbreak.
Henry did, indeed, insist that doctors, nurses and other practitioners get vaccinated if they were to keep working in acute and long-term care. She said that health-care providers who don’t believe in the efficacy of vaccines ought to consider another line of work.
Knowing Henry’s rationale for insisting on vaccinations for those working in proximity to patients, Dix rounded on Banman.
“How can you have so much contempt for people who live in long-term care? How can you have so much contempt for people who have to be in acute care? When we know that it is (they) who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. How can you take the view that we should have abandoned them?
“I think it is shameful that she’s being targeted in this way by a political party in this legislature,” said Dix. He noted that Henry and the vaccination mandate had long enjoyed the support of the other three parties in the legislature.
He cited the example of Mike Bernier, the Opposition MLA from Peace River South. Bernier “stepped up in difficult times” to defend the mandate in a region where vaccinations lagged, taking a lot of abuse in the process.
But once the Conservatives gained official status in the house, they used the platform to deliberately target Henry on behalf of the holdout health care workers.
The call was an appeal to the fringe, according to Dix.
“Ninety-nine per cent of health care workers were vaccinated when we brought in the vaccination order,” he told Richard Zussman on Global TV. “So it’s not a 50-50 debate. It’s a 99-1 debate.”
The Conservatives didn’t back off. Instead they again called for Henry’s firing at a rally on the back steps of the legislature Thursday.
While the Conservatives were staking out that turf, the Greens got caught up in a controversy involving Henry as well.
The story erupted Wednesday night when Rob Shaw of CHEK News flagged a social media posting by Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, the deputy leader of the Greens and the party’s candidate to run against Dix in the next provincial election. Gandhi had indicated a like on X for a posting that equated Henry with Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele.
Shortly after the posting was drawn to the attention of Green leader Sonia Furstenau, she made a posting of her own.
“Today, I was made aware of Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi liking a tweet with an inappropriate comparison between our provincial health officer and Mengele,” she wrote. “I find this unacceptable and I have removed Dr. Gandhi as deputy leader and accepted his resignation as a candidate.”
Though Gandhi said he’d clicked on “like” by accident, he also conceded that he had to go: “I recognize that my mistake and others capitalizing on that mistake will be an unavoidable distraction.”
That still left Furstenau facing questions from reporters Thursday about her own judgment in the affair.
Gandhi was associated with other questionable postings — he once characterized the health minister as a “charlatan eugenicist.”
Had she vetted Dr. Gandhi before endorsing him?
“That’s a question for the party,” she replied.
The Green party vets candidates. But according to Andrew Weaver, Furstenau’s predecessor, the party leader makes the call on the appointment of a deputy leader.
What about Furstenau’s own accusation that Henry was “gaslighting” British Columbians?
She sidestepped the question the first time she was asked, saying it is up to opposition parties to challenge the government.
Did the Green leader really think Dr. Henry was “gaslighting.”
“No,” she replied, but didn’t apologize for attacking the integrity of the provincial health officer.
So went one of those days when the political spectrum seems less like a straight line than a circle where the extremes come at an issue from different directions but end up meeting at the same point.
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