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BC Liberal member quits party amid Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA's comments

Former Anmore mayor Hal Weinberg ripped up his party membership card last week over comments made by BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer about health care.
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Former Anmore mayor Hal Weinberg

A high-profile Tri-City resident ripped up his party membership card last week over comments made by BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer about health care.

As reported in The Tri-City News, Reimer told a crowd during an all-candidates meeting on April 20 that she supports privatizing the public health care system "to some extent."

Her words struck a nerve with Hal Weinberg, a former Anmore mayor and professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University who was also a longtime BC Liberal member and active with the riding association in Port Moody-Coquitlam.

Although he was not at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce-hosted forum, Weinberg said he read about Reimer's stance and quit the party the next day after making his views known to the incumbent, who is running for a second term.

"I was just completely disappointed," he told The Tri-City News, adding, "I'm a strong supporter of a Canadian health system. Reimer seems to have supported a dual system. I was always against that."

Weinberg, who in 2014 was presented with the Order of BC by Premier Christy Clark, said he has become increasingly frustrated with the BC Liberals and especially his riding association, which he charged never discussed party policy.

"There doesn't seem to be any real interest, certainly at the riding association level," he said. "The interest seems primarily to knock on doors and get money."

The riding association president, Ken Juvik, declined comment and referred questions to Patrick O'Connor, Reimer's campaign chair.

O'Connor said that Reimer's comments have "been quite overblown" by the BC NDP and haven't hurt her re-election bid. He said other than written messages on a Facebook site and via Twitter, her campaign office hasn't had any communication from constituents about Reimer's position on a two-tiered health care system.

"It hasn't been a big issue that I'm aware," O'Connor said. 

He said Reimer is "very supportive" of universal health care and listed the party's muti-million-dollar spending on Eagle Ridge, Riverview and Royal Columbian hospitals.

As for Weinberg, O'Connor claimed the former mayor has been "estranged from the riding association for years" and brushed off his departure.

In a statement from BC Liberals headquarters, media spokesperson Alexis Pavich said the party  "will continue to fight for a robust, healthy public health care system. We believe in the public health care system, which is why we are investing another $4.2 billion in it. In fact, we spend almost 50 % of our budget on health care. We continue to invest in new hospitals and expanded health care facilities." 

Asked what party he's likely to back on May 9, Weinberg said he's unsure but "likes" the NDP's Rick Glumac.

"I'm out [of the campaign] now — and relieved," Weinberg said.

jcleugh@tricitynews.com

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