Gary Hee was a man on a mission.
That mission took him from hospital parking lot to hospital parking lot across the Lower Mainland to collect signatures.
Now, he says, that quest is over. His petition garnered 4,281 signatures—719 short of his goal—but he feels it’s enough.
Hee started his petition earlier this year in an effort to end parking fees in provincial hospital emergency parking lots. His mission started at Langley Memorial, but then quickly moved to other hospitals.
“When I saw the parking fees alone were high, then the fines were high, then the extra fines for not paying within a week were high, I did some research and found out it was a big problem.”
Hee said the parking management companies add a higher fine if the bill isn’t paid within a set period.
“They add a fine on top of the parking ticket. That’s not legal because it’s a private company and not a law enforcement company.”
The 75-year-old added these companies work on commission and said they are “eager to make more money,” which comes at the cost of legality and fairness.
“I call it scamming people,” he said. “It’s callous—especially when people are at a low point, rushing into use an emergency service.”
Hee added the ticket isn’t a ticket in the way the public thinks of, and understands, parking ticketing.
“There are no set regulations. Some people pay the ticket, not knowing that they could get away without paying for it because it’s not actually a ticket—it’s an invoice,” Hee said. “These (companies) are not law enforcement agencies. They are parking management companies who issue parking invoices because they make commission. It’s in their best interest to give tickets. So they sit there and watch people.”
This is not the first petition Hee has championed.
Hee worked with Bill Vander Zalm on the fight to rescind the harmonized sales tax, he fought against the tolls on the Port Mann, and he’s been involved with a few other petitions.
Hee said he raises these ruckuses because someone has to stand up for the little guy.
Hee lost his seemingly insurmountable battle against million-dollar parking companies and the Fraser Health Authority on the provincial level earlier this year when his petition was presented to Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health. At that time, Hee had more than 3,000 signatures.
“She said the contract with Imperial Parking was signed, sealed, and could not be changed. They have a several-million dollar service contract.”
Instead of being dissuaded from his mission, that door-in-the-face prompted Hee to kick his quest up to the next level. He’d heard about the same parking fine grievances in Ontario, Edmonton, and Calgary. So, after a little more research, Hee changed the petition.
“I amended the wording in such a way that Parliament is now the addressee.” Hee ensured the current petition didn’t void previous signatures.
“If the local level refused, I have to represent these people on the next level.”
Hee now wants Parliament to ban ER parking fees and fines by adding a bylaw to the Canada Health Act.
“I want them to abolish the outrageous fines and penalties that parking companies levy against patients seeking medical help.”
At the Cloverdale all-candidates meeting Sept. 25, election hopefuls addressed Hee’s petition.
John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, said he supports the petition. “I’ve heard from many people—that when they go to emergency—that having to pay for parking, presents issues and problems for them. People are in a desperate time.”
Conservative-hopeful Tamara Jansen also said she supports the initiative. “When you’re going to the hospital, it can be a very stressful time and parking fees are the last thing on your mind,” she said. “Anything that makes it easier for families when they are in a crisis time … is very important.”
As of Oct. 2, Hee noted his signature-quest had ended.
“I completed my tour of seven regional hospitals in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver areas,” he said. “Now, I have shut down my petitioning efforts as summer weather conditions have come and gone.”
He added he’s grateful for all the support and encouragement he’s received. He said he’ll present it to the next MP for Cloverdale Langley-City after the election.
Now, Hee says, he’ll put his full effort back into running his business.
“Age is only a number, not a hindrance, when the heart is still strong.”