MP optimistic Queen Charlotte, Skidegate can agree on hospital site

  • Aug. 27, 2007 2:00 p.m.

Skeena MP Nathan Cullen spoke to both sides of the south-end hospital squabble when he was here last month, and said he is optimistic that local people will come to an agreement about where the new hospital should be built. Northern Health has committed to building a new facility to replace the aging Queen Charlotte General, but both Skidegate and Queen Charlotte want the hospital in their community. Mr. Cullen said the new facility is one of the first priorities right now for the Northwest Regional Hospital District (which will be contributing part of the construction budget), and it would be a shame if the location argument bumped it from the top of the list. “I’m a middle ground kind of person,” the MP said, explaining that he got involved simply because people wanted to talk to him about the issue, and he’s happy to help mediate. “The best advice I have heard is that in a good negotiation, everybody gives up something.” Mr. Cullen said he urged the community representatives not to “overfocus on the where” of the new facility, but to concentrate on what kind of facility they want to have, with what kind of services. If the issue has not been resolved within the next few months, Mr. Cullen said he would be willing to come back and host a meeting between all interested parties. Other hot issues which islanders brought to his attention while he was here were skyrocketing real estate prices, the land use agreement, and the Steelworkers strike. Mr. Cullen said some islanders are worried that land prices are being pushed up by off-islanders, and that soon local people won’t be able to afford to buy here. “There’s been a huge surge of interest in people coming and buying land,” he said. “You can see the wave moving through British Columbia and the wave is now crashing on the Queen Charlottes.” Mr. Cullen will be back on the islands on Sept. 11 for the celebration marking the transfer of $24-million from the federal and provincial governments to the islands-controlled Gwaii Forest Fund Society.