By Pamela Fayerman
The B.C. Medical Association will throw its weight -- and resources -- behind Vancouver orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Day to boost his presidential prospects at the Canadian Medical Association annual meeting next month when he dukes it out with challenger Dr. Jack Burak.
"A strong majority of doctors I've heard from are in favour of what we are doing and believe we shouldn't redo the election," said BCMA president Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, referring to the February vote in which B.C. doctors elected Day to be their choice for the CMA position in 2007. Day beat Burak and four other doctors to become the B.C. nominee for the CMA presidency in 2007-2000, when it is B.C.'s turn to have a representative hold the position. But because CMA bylaws allow doctors to challenge the provincial nominees from the floor of the annual meeting, Burak is taking another run at the job, a decision he made, he says, following encouragement from doctors across Canada.
MacDiarmid said at this point, the BCMA is lending moral support to Day, but in the coming days, B.C. delegates to the annual meeting will discuss how much money and other help the organization will allocate to Day's bid. Burak, a former (2004-05) BCMA president -- and current member of the CMA board -- said he's shocked that members' dues will be used to bankroll Day's campaign. "It is a totally unprecedented intervention in the CMA's election process and an attempt to take away my constitutional and democratic right to participate in the BCMA caucus," he said. "The membership of the BCMA have never been asked if their dues can be used to support the election campaign of anyone, let alone Dr. Day, a candidate for the CMA who is an outspoken advocate of privatizing public health care services," he added.
Burak said that a recent meeting at the BCMA offices, he was "bullied" -- unsuccessfully --into giving up his challenge to Day. He said the only thing he regrets is the stress the controversy is causing his family. "I have dedicated 20 years of my professional life as a physician to the BCMA . . . and I could never have imagined a more disturbing or shocking development as this," he said, adding that if Day wins the election next month, "I will be the first to congratulate him." In a previous interview, he admitted he didn't congratulate Day last February after the B.C.-only election and apologized for offending him.
MacDiarmid said all BCMA members are "clear in their respect" for Burak's contributions. Though Burak contends he was kicked out of the B.C. delegation caucus, MacDiarmid said that is technically not true since Burak is going to Prince Edward Island in his capacity as a CMA board member, not as a BCMA member.
Richmond internist Dr. Victor Dirnfeld, who was the last B.C. doctor to be elected CMA president (in 1997/98), said he didn't get funding for his campaign through members' dues because no one contested his nomination at the convention, as is happening now. "The fact is, Dr. Day was elected in a transparent, objective and fair process and there are a substantial number of BCMA members who are upset that there is a challenge to Dr. Day by someone who was unsuccessful in a previously held vote," said Dirnfeld.