A lot has been written recently about the ongoing saga of Park Board Commissioner Constance Barnes and the admission that she drove her car into a south Vancouver home while under the influence of alcohol. After missing several other court appearances due to her attending rehab on Bowen Island, we can now confirm that Barnes is scheduled to make an appearance in provincial court tomorrow at 9:30 am on Main Street. File # 208158-1 as it's known, is scheduled to be dealt with in courtroom 101.
The Vision apologists are now busily trying to attack anyone who dares question the circumstances surrounding this whole affair. As far as I'm concerned, there are really two issues the public should be concerned with when it comes to the actions of Barnes and her Vision party.
Firstly, Ms. Barnes was less than forthcoming when asked by Janet Brown, CKNW's senior city hall reporter, whether she had paid for the treatment herself. In fact, she told Brown that she paid for the costly treatment when it was subsequently revealed that she received a loan from the city to cover part of the costs.
Barnes would have been far better off simply telling CKNW radio that she paid for a portion, while taxpayers loaned her money for the rest as part of a program available to politicians and city staff. Most people would then have simply applauded her for seeking treatment and being upfront about who paid for it. Rather, it ended up appearing as though she was keeping some elements of this story out of the public realm.
Secondly, the mishandling of the Barnes affair by the chair of Vancouver's aimless park board is yet another indication that he's not up to the job. The fact that Vision had to hire a PR flack to act as spokesperson on behalf of the park board, a job normally reserved for the chair, should send off alarm bells in the Mayor's office and beyond.
Ironically, Raj Hundal now finds himself under attack from the left for releasing the information about the loan, while the right pounces on why he kept the details secret from the public for so long. As a result, he and his Vision colleagues are now facing a PR pickle of their own making - yet again.
At the end of the day, I believe most people want Barnes to own up to what she did in a court of law and seek the necessary treatment to get better. As a politician and high-profile public figure, they also expect that she will be forthcoming when she is asked simple questions by the media.
In relation to whether she (or any politician) should be granted access to tax dollars for rehab, I think the question is a good one, but shouldn't cloud the real issues. The fact remains that she did receive the loan as well as return her monthly stipend and complete a treatment program. For the latter two, she clearly deserves some recognition.
Let's hope that tomorrow's court appearance helps Barnes close what must surely be a painful chapter in her life.