Gary Hee hopes to build on the success of his B.C. petition against pay parking at ERs by taking it Canada-wide. File photo

Campaign against Langley ER parking fees goes national

Organizer of B.C. campaign hopes to harvest at least 50,000 signatures from Canadians on e-petition

Encouraged by the response to his Langley-based petition for free parking at hospital ERs, Gary Hee is expanding his campaign to include all of Canada.

“I figure if I wanted to cover Western Canada, we would have to do it federally,” Hee told the Langley Advance Times.

Since April 12, he has been circulating a petition among Langley residents that calls on the provincial government, Langley Memorial Hospital Board and the mayors and councils of the City and Township of Langley “to implement ways and means to collaborate to remove parking fees placed upon us or our vehicles while attending the hospital emergency department premises for medical reasons during and up to a four hour period.”

Hee set a goal of 2,500, only to see the numbers top 3,500.

His decision to launch a Canada-wide campaign, is partly a reaction to reports from other provinces where hospitals charge for parking.

“In Ontario, at one hospital, people are parking a shopping centre parking lot and walking across a football sized field in the winter to save money,” Hee recounted.

“It’s just not right.”

Another motivating factor was learning the revenue from hospital pay parking runs into the millions of dollars.

“It’s irritating,” Hee said.

He plans to launch his e-petition online in September, when members of parliament are expected to return to Ottawa, urging them to support his proposal to have no charge for the first four hours of parking at a hospital ER.

He’s hoping to raise 50,000 signatures, a goal he believes is possible “if we can get all of Canada to come on board with this idea.”

“I will do the best I can, give it a try for three months and see how it goes,” Hee said.

He is still accepting signature on the original petition.

Hee is hoping to find some volunteers to work on the petition drive, to bolster what has been a one-person crusade up till now.

“It gets exhausting after a while,” Hee admitted.

READ MORE: Campaign against Langley hospital parking fees reaches goal of 2,500 signatures

The proposed federal petition argues parliament has the right to intervene because the parking management companies running hospital parking lots “operate inter-provincially and are private companies in Canada or elsewhere …”

“We , the undersigned citizens of all Canadian provinces and northern territories, including all First Nations, hereby petition the Canadian Parliament … to implement ways and means to remove parking fees placed upon us, including disabled persons, or on our personal vehicles while attending any Canadian hospital emergency department premises for medical reasons during and up to a four hour period in standard emergency cases or between four to eight hours in trauma emergency cases.”

Hee worked on the FightHST petition campaign in 2009, and launched his own petition campaign for a crosswalk at the corner of 72nd Avenue and 196th Street on the Surrey-Langley border in 2014.

There were a few roadblocks on the road to 3,500 names.

Hee said he was ordered off the premises when he tried to get signatures at Langley Memorial Hospital, and some seniors homes did the same.

At the time, Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma explained the health authority has a policy against such activity because it needs to ensure patients, visitors and employees can easily access the hospital for care.

“People who wish to sell products, distribute materials or in this case, have a petition signed, are asked to be offsite,” Juma said.

“This usually means on the sidewalk across the street, so it doesn’t interfere with patient access,” she added.

After that, Hee took his campaign to local sidewalks parking lots, using his truck as a mobile billboard, as well as using his website http://garybhee.ca.

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