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Lawmaker nearly dies, then resigns

Pam Barrett, Alberta's strongest voice of opposition, resigned from her job as leader of the New Democrats on Wednesday after almost dying in her dentist's chair.

Still shaken, Barrett said she had a spiritual awakening during an allergic reaction to anesthesia.

"I nearly died. It was very bad, very bad. I actually had a near-death experience. I went into death and I came out. The struggle to stay alive was _ oh, man _ the most freaky thing," she said.

Barrett, 46, said she had three episodes, one in her dentist's chair and two in the hospital, and believes she died in each of them but somehow managed to fight back to life.

The politician, who was having veneers applied to her teeth Tuesday afternoon and had been chatting with her dentist about having a prettier smile for the next election, said she suddenly began trembling. Then everything went dark.

"My entire body went numb," she recalled. "My throat swelled up so much I couldn't breathe."

She went into convulsions and sat up and back down again in the dentist's chair.

"At one point, I felt dead. I said, "David (Oyen, her dentist), I'm going, I'm dying.' " Barrett, raised a Catholic, crossed herself.

"For a split second, there was no struggle. There was no nothing. It was black."

Asked what she saw, she said: "It was just fine. I've lost my fear of death."

Oyen had his receptionist call 911. He opened the top button of Barrett's jacket and instructed her in yoga breathing techniques until paramedics came.

An ambulance rushed her to hospital, where she experienced a second episode. Oyen said Barrett, who has been his patient for three years, had "a quite unusual anaphylactoid-type reaction" to a routine local anesthetic called mepivacaine. He said that he has used this product on Barrett before but that sometimes people develop sensitivities.

Barrett said the experience persuaded her to resign as party leader and from her Edmonton district.

She said she has no idea what she'll do next. "I realized I need a new path. That's the best explanation I can give."

Premier Ralph Klein called Barrett a "formidable political force." Although the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they are good friends and often had lunch together.

$900-million suggested

for leaky condo repairs

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ A public inquiry has recommended a $900-million cash bailout for thousands of homeowners facing financially ruinous repairs to their leaky condominiums.

An estimated 50,000 condominiums are infested with water and mold.

Inquiry commissioner Dave Barrett said $300-million should come from the province, $300-million from Ottawa and $300-million from a $2,000-per-unit levy on new multifamily construction for the next 10 years.