The sign at the B.C. government’s Tuesday ground-breaking ceremony for the second Surrey Hospital in Cloverdale said “under construction.”
But on Friday morning, the excavator pictured at the event was hauled away.
Premier David Eby, Health Minister Adrian Dix and six NDP MLAs from Surrey had posed for photos in hardhats with the orange heavy-duty vehicle in the lot, surrounded by blue fencing and a banner for construction contractor EllisDon. Signs read “under construction” in white letters on a red diagonal bar across a “Surrey H” sign.
The site sat empty on Friday morning.
“Why hasn't construction already started?” asked Anita Huberman, the Surrey Board of Trade’s CEO. “Why were construction equipment being taken away from the facility when it should be beginning immediately? Every single day construction costs escalate.”
Huberman said health care needs to be depoliticized because it is a life-and-death matter for residents in Surrey who are being forced to wait longer for improvements.
Mike Starchuk, the NDP’s Cloverdale MLA, did not immediately respond for comment. Likewise for the communications departments at the Ministry of Health and Fraser Health.
When the NDP was in Opposition, the party criticized then-premier Christy Clark and environment minister Mary Polak for holding a climate leadership plan news conference in August 2016 inside a warehouse, amid artificial greenery and a nature scene on a screen behind them.
“I've said repeatedly that this is an NDP government of flashy announcements, press releases, staged photos and endless re-announcements. Everything but actual results,” BC United leader Kevin Falcon tweeted. “British Columbians are taking notice of David Eby's political theatre. They want action, not photo-ops.”
In July of last year, when the NDP government shortlisted PCL Construction Ltd. and EllisDon Design Build Inc., construction was scheduled to begin in summer 2023 and the facility was scheduled to be “ready for patients in 2027” with an estimated capital cost of $1.72 billion.
However, at the Tuesday photo-op, Eby and Dix revealed the hospital is now expected to cost $2.88 billion and not open until 2030.
That is $1.16 billion more expensive and three years later.
Meanwhile, the Surrey Board of Trade continues to campaign for better services at Surrey Memorial Hospital, which doesn’t have emergency facilities to treat heart attack, stroke or trauma patients. They are transferred elsewhere, mainly to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Doctors held a protest on Saturday outside Surrey city hall about delays and conditions at Surrey Memorial. Dix tried to get ahead of the story with a preemptive news conference at the hospital a day earlier, but said that demand for hospital treatment in B.C.’s second-biggest city is outstripping supply and that that may be the “new normal.”
In May, Dix announced B.C. would send as many as 50 cancer patients weekly across the border to clinics in Bellingham, Wash. for radiation treatment under a temporary program.
On Wednesday, Eby and Starchuk held a party fundraiser in Firehall 1271, the Surrey Firefighters’ union hall, where tickets were sold for $150. Attendees included former party president Craig Keating, who is now registered to lobby the government for the Cement Association of Canada, B.C. Federation of Labour president Sussanne Skidmore and Nicola Hill, a partner at lobbying firm Earnscliffe Strategies.
Hill’s clients include the B.C. General Employees’ Union, MakeWay Charitable Society (formerly Tides Canada), United Way B.C. and North Island-Coast Development Initiative Trust.