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Fraser Health Authority chair, once B.C.’s outspoken top labour leader, cancels interview

The Fraser Health Authority cancelled an interview with Jim Sinclair amid mounting concerns about staffing shortages at local hospitals
The emergency department at Surrey Memorial Hospital, which is part of the Fraser Health Authority | Chung Chow

Doctors at four Fraser Health Authority hospitals, including Surrey Memorial, have raised the alarm about a staffing shortage that they say is putting the lives of patients in jeopardy.

But the authority’s NDP-appointed chair, once the province’s most-powerful labour leader, isn’t talking about it.

A reporter requested an interview last week with Jim Sinclair and the Fraser Health Authority communications department scheduled it for Tuesday afternoon. But one of its employees cancelled late Tuesday morning, due to unspecified other commitments. They have not rescheduled the interview.

Health Minister Adrian Dix appointed Sinclair in September 2017, two months after John Horgan’s Green-supported NDP minority government took over from the BC Liberals.

Sinclair was the president of the BC Federation of Labour, which donated $1.4 million to the party from 2005 until 2017, when the NDP banned donations from unions and corporations. Sinclair has also made more than $18,000 in individual contributions to the NDP through 2022.

During the year ended March 31, 2022, Sinclair received $29,000 in meeting fees and a $15,000 stipend as chair. He chairs a board that includes nine other government appointees, each receiving a basic $7,500 stipend plus $500 for each full-day meeting.

Together, they oversee an organization that had a $5.14 billion budget last year, with 84 per cent of the revenue directly from the Ministry of Health.

But Sinclair is not the only board member with an NDP pedigree.

Opreet Kang was appointed at the same time as Sinclair in 2017. Kang, a $1,778 NDP donor since 2016, is also a director of the NDP-aligned Broadbent Institute, and spent 2011 to 2018 on the board of Vision Vancouver.

Inderjeet Hundal is an NDP supporter from Dix’s Kingsway riding. During the 1990s, the NDP appointed Hundal to the Workers’ Compensation Review Board. The $3,935 NDP donor since 2005 became the director of seniors’ care with the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society in 2006.

Ramya Hosak is a fundraising executive at the Kidney Foundation of B.C. and Yukon and co-founded the Young and Type 1 support group for people with Type 1 diabetes. That’s where she met husband Mark Hosak, a former Vision Vancouver canvasser, aide to ex-NDP MP Fin Donnelly and campaign worker with former mayor Kennedy Stewart’s Forward Together party. In February, Mark Hosak became an aide to NDP Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon.

The name Manpreet Grewal appears in the Elections BC database for a $5,000 donation in 2009, but the Fraser Health director and Multicultural and Immigrant Integration Services director said by email that she has never made a donation to any political party.

When Dix was the NDP leader, he was frequently critical of the BC Liberal government rewarding its donors, campaign workers and former caucus members.

For instance, in May 2014, the year after losing the election, Dix called the $140,000-a-year earthquake preparation oversight job for then-solicitor general John Les “a wasteful, extra superfluous, pork-barreling, double-dipping patronage appointment.” Then-premier Christy Clark withdrew Les’s job offer.

A 2013 Carleton University thesis on the history of patronage called Canada’s system unique from the U.K. and U.S.

“Patronage has a long and multifaceted history in Canadian politics,” wrote the author, David Banoub. “It has been used as a tool to reward party support, as a weapon to punish opponents, and as a strategy to extend party goals into the different regions across the nation. It has been supported as a legitimate form of governing and challenged as a form of corruption that stood in the way of bureaucratic progress."

Published documents for the most-recent Fraser Health Authority public board meeting in February include an update on creating a Fraser Health Regional Health and Safety Committee. The management and union group was scheduled to meet for the first time in April and then once every quarter.

The board also received an upbeat report on its brand reputation, boasting nearly a million visitors to its careers website in the last quarter of 2022’s calendar year. It trumpeted a better than average rating on the Indeed job search site, just behind Vancouver Coastal Health.

“Good news: All of our career channels (except Twitter) are trending upwards in audience growth,” the report said. “This allows our brand, jobs, and content to reach more potential candidates in the global market.”

That reputation is now at stake, along with the lives of patients, at Fraser Health’s Surrey, Langley, New Westminster and Port Moody hospitals.