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  • Gayle Baker

Welcoming our "Delighted to be Alive!" MP Elizabeth May

Updated: Jan 16

January 12

Due to freezing temperatures and icy roads, only 11 came to welcome our MP Elizabeth May and Ned Taylor, Constituency Coordinator. While the numbers were disappointing but understandable, those who braved the weather all contributed to an amazing and rich conversation with Elizabeth.

After our Territorial Acknowledgment, we asked Elizabeth what excited and delighted her. Her answer was immediate and heartfelt: I am delighted to be alive! We then learned more about her recent stroke. While the most common strokes are ischemic, caused by a blocked artery in the brain, Elizabeth’s was a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by the bursting of a blood vessel in her brain ( Aware of the warning signs of the more common ischemic strokes, she was totally unprepared for the absence of stroke warning signs; the only indication of her hemorrhagic stroke was an unbelievably unbearable headache.

Thankfully, Elizabeth is fine with absolutely no damage; others are not so lucky with some survivors needing months of hard work to even walk again. She likened it to the luck of being in a crowded room in which a gun was discharged with no one hurt and the bullet lodging in a wall instead. Taking this as a very tangible sign that her work is not done, she embraces the role she loves in our government with energy and gratitude.

One enduring result of her stroke is Elizabeth’s disturbing experience with our troubled healthcare system. Shockingly, her stroke was June 29 and she was not able to get care from a doctor until a full eight days later! Without her own doctor for the past eight years, it took days until she was able to see a doctor who immediately moved to verify his suspicion that she had, in fact, had an hemorrhagic stroke.

While Elizabeth eventually was cared for well, this delay is clearly unacceptable and could have been a death sentence for another less lucky stroke victim.

Why, with recent federal healthcare funding quadrupled, are provincial systems struggling? Elizabeth cited a Globe and Mail article several months ago in which Andrew Coyne charged a lack of accountability of provincial healthcare expenditures, asserting that money was being spent to buy votes rather than fix our struggling healthcare system (

In Elizabeth’s opinion, a root problem is that federal and provincial relationships are not harmonious. She cited a healthcare meeting which began well but fizzled when premiers refused to return to the meeting until federal funding was increased. She believes this is illustrative of a system with inadequate accountability in which more and more money is spent with less and less allocated to doctors and beds. She asked us to watch the Beds to Bureaucracy ratio, to challenge a mushrooming healthcare bureaucracy that is taking funding from doctors and the direct delivery of care, creating a system burdened by more administrators than beds.

While recognizing the good budget-balancing work of Paul Martin ( one of Canada’s most famous past Ministers of Finance as well as Prime Minister, Elizabeth also connects his financial decisions with significant cuts in healthcare and social housing, sowing the seeds of some of our biggest challenges today.

Elizabeth cited Canada's mass closures of hospitals and hospital beds between 1994 and 1998, suggesting we read the exploration of this in Holly Dressel’s Who Killed the Queen? (

She also noted that we must provide enough resident spaces in our teaching hospitals for newly-qualified doctors if we hope to make any progress fulfilling that Canadian promise of a doctor for all. Without enough resident positions, these new doctors, most burdened by huge student loans and needing an immediate income to begin their repayment, accept available positions, often in the United States and other countries. Without supporting our new doctors, Canada is unlikely to make progress making sure all Canadians have a doctor, the very best way to keep our healthcare costs in check through preventative - rather than emergency - health services.

Also, the roles of doctors have changed dramatically in the last half decade. Who of you remember the time when doctors routinely made house calls? As recently as the 1960s, doctors often journeyed long distances in the middle of the night to care for patents. Expectations have changed, and, in general, today’s doctors seek a better balanced life than that of those hardworking country doctors. And, the record and administrative paperwork required of doctors has increased exponentially, often impeding our doctors’ ability to focus on care.

Are there any solutions? Elizabeth (as well as MLA Adam Olsen) are enthusiastic about the model of care provided just a ferry ride away: Saanich Peninsula’s Shoreline Medical ( Based upon the premise that doctors should focus their energy on patient care, this innovative model offers a healthcare team. This team works together to provide a continuum of care, supported by administrators who shoulder the burden of the management and record keeping requirements of this healthcare centre.

Is Shoreline actually a Primary Care Network - PCN - ( No. According to Elizabeth, PCN’s, run by Island Health, are not popular with doctors while Shoreline has 44 happy physicians. What is different? Shoreline Medical is operated by a charitable society that combines Islands Health funding with community donations.

Well-functioning and beloved by the community, Elizabeth sees this as a model that could be replicated. Understanding that there is a degree of unfairness as poorer communities would be unlikely to be able to support their clinic as do Saanich residents, the possibilities for Salt Spring were apparent. Is it possible that our Lady Minto Foundation ( would be interested in partnering with the Salt Spring Community Health Society ( whose mandate is to create a community health centre? And, for a location, what about exploring rental of the recently-closed Phoenix School on Drake Road?

Is this a potentially fruitful conversation? Would a field trip to Shoreline be a wise starting point? Elizabeth committed to help explore local options. While she reminded us that complex problems seldom have simple answers, she is optimistic that a fruitful local conversation exploring the Shoreline Medical model is possible. (NOTE: The new Director of the Lady Minto Foundation will be one of four special guests joining us at ASK Salt Spring this Friday, January 19, 11-1, in the SIMS classroom next to the Boardroom to discuss funding opportunities of local projects.)

Our troubled healthcare system has obvious parallels with our housing crisis, partially rooted in the budget cuts and cessation of social housing projects in the late 1990s. But, despite this daunting backlog, estimated at 3 million homes by 2030, Elizabeth believes that emergency measures can be employed to solve this emergency. She cited the horrendous December 6, 1917 Halifax explosion ( Leaving 1000s homeless as winter approached, Halifax rose to the emergency, building simple tenements (intended as temporary) homes for those in need by March of 1918. Elizabeth asked why our current housing crisis cannot have the same effective, focused, and successful outcome?

A participant asked whether opening our borders to immigrants was increasing our housing shortage. While Elizabeth agreed that this could be a factor, she remains a strong supporter of open borders. A Baby Boomer (, Elizabeth supports Canada’s imperative to attract new citizens to supplement our decreasing workforce. Without vision and creativity, these new immigrants could further increase our growing backlog of homes for Canadians.

But, what if the immigrants moved to some of Canada’s empty towns with buildings, homes, and infrastructure but fast-dwindling populations? Of course, the immediate question by a participant was: How would they make a living in these dying towns? Well, responded, Elizabeth, what do you know about the success story of Peace by Chocolate ( Syrian chocolate-makers who had lost everything when they arrived in Canada have revitalized a declining community as well as attracting a growing Syrian community to contribute to the success of this amazing company. With creative thinking and governmental support, Elizabeth believes that this great story could be repeated over and over again, revitalizing our dying communities across Canada.

We also had fun listening to Elizabeth’s enthusiasm about her recent headlined gift of a Peace by Chocolate bar to Joe Biden (

Aa our time together was drawing to a close, a participant lauded Elizabeth as a model of Canadianism. She cautioned that it is so easy to be mean-spirited and that too many politicians forget that they should be tough on issues not on people. She spoke with glee of a party she threw for newly-elected Members of Parliament soon after she was elected in 2011. Non-partisan and purely social, Elizabeth credits this as the first important step toward the caring and respectful relationships she has with all 337 (soon to be 343) of her Parliament colleagues. Committed to disagree without being disagreeable, Elizabeth asked us to seek the truth, support our local newspaper, the Driftwood, and use our commitment to truth and respectful relationships to question pervasive social media bombardment.

With 1:00 upon us, we applauded Elizabeth, welcomed her back to ASK Salt Spring again as soon as possible, and acknowledged her for her hard work, enthusiasm, willingness to seek answers to complex issues, and obvious joy in her role as our Member of Parliament. (Thank-you Elizabeth and Ned!)

Interested in learning how local initiatives get funded? Come this Friday, January 19, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) classroom to learn how great ideas can get the money they need: "Funding a healthy and resilient Salt Spring. "

Please join our team of experts Shannon Cohen, Salt Spring Island Foundation; Nora Layard, Transition Salt Spring Economic Co-Op (TSSEC);and Robert Steinback, Country Grocer Community Outreach..

Committed to supporting local initiatives, these experts welcome your questions and your creative ideas to make Salt Spring even better.

Please join us this Friday to welcome Shannon, Nora, and Robert!

Did you know that ASK Salt Spring now has an Event Organizer? Grant Fredrickson has stepped up to identify special guests and coordinate their visits. . . Wahoo!

Who else would like to help? Maybe you would like to take charge of weekly media? Do you see yourself facilitating? How about writing reports? Or. . . ?

Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!

Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!

***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.

Any questions, anytime:

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?

Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15

Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!

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