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Penalizing smokers, televising rioters and, Oh, where will that prison go?

A government suggestion to charge smokers extra for health care is a user fee from a world gone crazy, says the Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal.

B.C. health minister Mike de Jong has said he is looking at a health-care surcharge. Journal editor Wendy Coomber points out that Premier Christy Clark this spring was going in the opposite direction, promising "free" nicotine-replacement therapies.

Ms. Coomber does not think either idea is worthwhile. "I don't agree with tax-dollar-paid incentives for people to give up their bad habits - we are not children to be spoon fed by the state, although many of us act like we are," she says. However a surcharge on smokers could lead to user fees for open heart surgeries, heart transplants and hip replacements.

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"If one group is charged extra for their lifestyle, why not all?" she says. "Catch my drift? If this surcharge is put into place, the rest will follow. Where are our taxes going?"


Another health care suggestion - hiring organ donor co-ordinators to work in B.C hospitals – was endorsed by The Daily News in Kamloops.

"Now and then, government surprises us with a sensible spending decision," an editorial says.

Doctors are uncomfortable asking families if they want to donate organs of a deceased person after a patient has died. Kelowna General, Vancouver General and Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster will have co-ordinators to speak to families.

BC Transplant, the agency that pays the wages, will pick two more. "Having a dedicated organ donor co-ordinator working in the province's busiest hospitals will surely encourage more folks to consider the option. All the better if Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops is chosen to receive one of the remaining two co-ordinators, but regardless, we say the initiative is a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars," the newspaper says.


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Premier Christy Clark continues to receive bad reviews for suggesting that the trial of the Stanley Cup rioters should be televised. A Black Press editorial in the Vernon Morning Star dismisses the suggestion as arbitrary. "If courtrooms are to be open to television cameras, is this not a change that should be debated in the legislature and other public forums?," the newspaper says.

"Cameras in the courtroom would constitute a major shift in justice policy in this country." The newspaper says some favour cameras as a means to hold the justice system accountable while others believe cameras subvert justice by bringing an artificially high level of melodrama into the courtroom.

"Her suggestion smacks of attempting to endear herself to the electorate without carrying out the proper process to make the change," the newspaper says.

The Prince George Free Press was no kinder to Ms. Clark.

Columnist Bill Phillips writes Ms. Clark, "much to our dismay, is getting more and more like Bill Vander Zalm all the time."

Mr. Vander Zalm would often set policy during media scrums, which led to great goofiness in government and untold hardship on the civil service, who had to scramble to write policy to suit what popped into the premier's head an hour before, he writes.

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"The argument here is simple, either cameras should be allowed in courtrooms or they shouldn't. Period. For the premier to pick and choose which trials to televise, based on what she feels will feed the public's appetite for vengeance and/or voyeurism, puts her in the same league as [US TV host] Nancy Grace … a zealot who harms the delivery of justice while professing to defend it."


The Penticton Western News wants to know what ever happened to the selection of a site for the province's controversial new multi-million jail for the Okanagan Valley.

Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino told the newspaper that she met with solicitor-general Shirley Bond in late September.

"I told her I was so frustrated by the lack of correct information, the lack of follow up and a sense of fairness. I was really disappointed with how the province had dealt with this," Ms. Perrino was quoted as saying.

She walked away without an answer on when a decision would be made. "She doesn't expect it's going to be any time soon," Ms. Perrino says.

Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corp. chief financial officer Brian Titus said he was told the proposal was in the minister's office waiting approval. However Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton and his council recently heard from ministry officials that a decision would be made before the municipal election, set for Nov. 19.

"It's already become an election issue," he said," but hopefully if the province makes a decision, then it, in my mind, does take it off the table."


As the municipal election approaches, regional newspaper are paying more attention to municipal issues. The Daily News in Kamloops reports that Kamloops has become the first municipality in B.C. to make Braille ballots available. Ballots and templates for the visually impaired were used in the 2009 provincial election. Todd Harding, chairman of the mayor's advisory committee for persons with disabilities, said he will be able to vote in a civic election without help for the first time since he became blind 31 years ago. About 300 people in Kamloops are legally blind.

City deputy corporate clerk Cindy Kennedy told The Daily News the Braille ballots cost less than $1,000. Each polling station will have one package, and more will be available if needed.

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