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Campbell warns chaos will erupt under NDP If opposition forms government, strikes, lockouts will multiply, Liberal Leader says

If opposition forms government, strikes, lockouts will multiply, Liberal Leader says

With a report from Gary Mason


ral Leader Gordon Campbell warned that British Columbia would be thrown into chaos by labour disruptions and strikes with an NDP government in power as he honed his message that only his government can maintain the economic growth in the province.

"Disruption is their middle name," he said during a campaign stop in Langley. "We've had the lowest level of strikes and lockouts in 30 years in British Columbia, and they want to change that."

In stops along the Trans-Canada Highway from Langley to Kamloops, Mr. Campbell told supporters that the NDP would undo the labour code his government forged.

Mr. Campbell said the NDP would reverse his Liberals' policy that education is an essential service, limiting the amount of time teachers can strike.

His government's labour code has reduced the number of strikes in the province to one-tenth the number it had during the NDP days, Mr. Campbell said. In 2000, B.C. had 80 labour strikes and there were eight in 2003.

NDP Leader Carole James at campaign announcements yesterday hammered away at the Liberal's record on health care, saying the privatization of some hospital services in laundry and food have disrupted patient care. "We need to address that. We want to open up these private contracts to public scrutiny," said Ms. James in front of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Ms. James said the NDP would not scrap those agreements, but will honour them until the contract is up for renewal and then look at whether to continue with privatization.

At Surrey Memorial and then later at the demolition site of St. Mary's Hospital in New Westminster, Ms. James criticized the government's health-care plans, saying that if elected, the NDP would add 1,000 more long-term beds in its first year in office.

Both hospital locations were picked because of recent controversies. At Surrey Memorial, a local man collapsed and died after being discharged from the emergency ward where there were no available beds. The hospital has also encountered infection problems in its maternity wards, prompting an external audit of its procedures.

Surrey Memorial, home of B.C.'s busiest emergency ward, is one of the hospitals within the Fraser Health Region that decided to shut down the historic St. Mary's Hospital in 2003.

The NDP platform has called for putting elected officials on health-region boards, making them accountable to the public. Under the Liberals, health regions had to meet budgetary guidelines. Ms. James said elected board members will make sure regional health authorities cannot make significant changes without first consulting the local community.

Ms. James said her government, however, won't reopen hospitals closed under the Liberals.

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