Gary Hee, seen here in Fort Langley on Monday, Nov. 11, said he kept trying to wind down his petition for free hospital parking, but people would insist on adding their names, so he kept it going longer than planned. Now, he has sent it to Ottawa. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a Langley-based campaign became a national issue, organizer said

A Langley-based petition for free parking at all Canadian hospitals is now in the hands of Vancouver-Granville independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Organizer Gary Hee delivered a 4,291-signature petition to Wilson-Raybould on Thursday, Nov. 8, with a request that she raise the matter in the House of Commons.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Hee told the Langley Advance Times.

Hee has been collecting signatures since April 15th, and said he would have wrapped the campaign up sooner if it wasn’t for the continuing interest in the issue.

“People were saying they wanted to sign,” Hee explained.

His petition drive began as a demand that the Langley Memorial Hospital board and the mayors and councils of the City and Township of Langley “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.”

Over time, what was originally planned as a petition about pay parking at just one hospital expanded into a campaign aimed at all B.C. hospitals, then became a push for action on a national level.

Hee said he decided to expand the scope after talking to individuals in other communities who told him they were spending hundreds of dollars on parking a year because they have had to make multiple trips to the hospital, not just the ER, including people whose children have disabilities, or adults who have to have dialysis and people who have parents or relatives

“There are hospitals across Canada that are experiencing the same problem,” Hee commented.

Over the same period, his target number of signatures and his deadline for collecting names also grew from his initial goal of 2,500 by the time he turned 75 in July.

READ MORE: Campaign against hospital parking fees is gathering momentum: organizer

READ MORE: Hospital parking fee fight goes from Langley to PNE to Ottawa

Hee said any MP could take the petition to Ottawa, and he opted to go to a Vancouver MP rather than a Langley representative because of the defeat in the recent federal election of incumbent Cloverdale-Langley City Liberal MP John Aldag and the passing of Langley—Aldergrove Conservative MP Mark Warawa.

As a result, Hee said it wasn’t clear where the newly-elected Langley-area MPs, Conservatives Tamara Jansen and Tako van Popta, would be locating their offices, so he decided to present it to Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal who was re-elected as an independent MP after a public split with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair led to her dismissal from the Liberal caucus.

“Wilson-Raybould is my best choice since she was not defeated,” Hee said.

It will likely be the last campaign for Hee, a veteran of several previous petition efforts, among them working for the FightHST petition campaign in 2009, launching his own petition campaigns, for a crosswalk at the corner of 72nd Avenue and 196th Street on the Surrey-Langley border in 2014, and another against against bridge tolls in 2017.

“It was a pleasure to do it,” he said.

Hee has emphatically ruled out accepting any more signatures on the parking issue, now that the petition has been filed.

“It’s closed.”



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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