British Columbia

'I feel like I've been misled': Surrey community organizer regrets voting for naturopath

The day before this fall's civic election, Grant Rice tweeted out his recommendations for Surrey city council — five names from a mix of political affiliations, including Safe Surrey Coalition's Allison Patton.

Grant Rice says he recommended Allison Patton as a candidate for council, believing she's an MD

Allison Patton ran for council with Mayor Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition. (Safe Surrey Coalition)

The day before this fall's civic election, Grant Rice tweeted out his recommendations for Surrey city council — five names from a mix of political affiliations, including Safe Surrey Coalition's Allison Patton.

Rice thought Patton performed well at an all-candidates' meeting he'd organized, but more than that, he was impressed by her credentials. According to her biography on the Safe Surrey website, she'd spent the last 17 years as a "community physician." A campaign video referenced her "medical practice."

"I want smart people on council, so I thought if somebody has applied themselves for 10 years and become a doctor, then that's probably a very smart person," said Rice, founder of the citizens' group Surrey Community Leaders.

He'd assumed she was a medical doctor. It wasn't until after she was elected to council that he learned Patton is really a naturopath.

"I feel like I've been misled. Well, once bitten, twice shy — Dr. Allison Patton will probably not get my vote again," Rice told CBC.

Earlier this month, a member of the public filed a complaint against Patton with the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C., pointing to the college's advertising policy. That document says naturopaths can call themselves doctors or physicians, but they must make it clear they practice naturopathy.

The complaint is now being investigated by the college.

Patton has said she had no intention of concealing her profession and training, and told CBC she wants to apologize to anyone who felt misled. After hearing of Rice's concerns, she said she'd like to speak with him directly, but she did not respond to requests for an interview.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who ran with Patton on the Safe Surrey Coalition slate, declined to be interviewed for this story.

'People were assuming she was a medical doctor'

Rice acknowledges he could have discovered Patton's profession quickly if he'd done a bit more research. Most posts that mention Patton on Safe Surrey's Facebook page specify that she's an ND, and her clinic's website is one of the first results in the Google results for her name.

But Rice is still annoyed that he recommended Patton as a candidate to family, friends and supporters of Surrey Community Leaders, based on incomplete information.

"I think one of the problems is that when people were assuming she was a medical doctor, she didn't correct them," Rice said.

Patton's campaign bio also details her educational history, but leaves out her training in naturopathy. (Safe Surrey Coalition)

He listened to one lengthy interview conducted by Media Waves, a radio station serving Surrey's large South Asian population, and says he was struck by how frequently the host referred to Patton's profession.

While introducing Patton, the host remarked: "Every mother has dreamed that a child goes for a doctor or to be an engineer. And you're a doctor, there is no doubt about it, but you are busy in your profession and still you decided to run for Surrey [council]."

During the 15-minute interview, the host called Patton a doctor several times, suggesting at one point that her background makes her an ideal candidate for fixing Surrey's problems.

"We have a doctor on board who knows how to cut and then clean and sew it, and then the recovery period starts," he said.

'I was kind of shocked'

Patton did not call herself a doctor at any point in the interview, but Rice said he was more troubled by what she didn't say.

"I was kind of shocked when I listened to that interview," Rice said. "She was given ample opportunity to make a correction to the interviewer and she never did."

He's not sure whether he would have voted for Patton if he'd known she was a naturopath all along. He described it as a useful profession that many people find valuable, but in his mind, it's not equivalent to medicine.

In the end, he'd like an apology from Patton and a promise she'll prove she's worthy of her seat on council.

"I don't know if she's in any way remorseful for it … but I feel that it's important that this is news. It'll pass and hopefully she'll do a great job as a city councillor," Rice said.

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