The timing was interesting, to say the least. One day after Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released a report that showed for-profit long-term care in B.C. has been a grotesque failure by several key measures, Sechelt council was asked to give staff permission to proceed with drawing up bylaws for the Trellis rezoning application.
The 132-bed for-profit care home project, intended to replace the publicly owned Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge facilities, has been bouncing around the Sunshine Coast in pre-development limbo for almost four years, the result of the previous council stalling the original application to conduct a “spectrum of care” analysis.
The current council made it very clear Wednesday night that Trellis would be treated differently this time.
“I’m a hundred per cent in support of this,” Coun. Janice Kuester said at the meeting. “This is something our community has needed for a long time.”
“I’m 100 per cent,” said Coun. Eric Scott. “This needs to happen, sooner or later, and this is the path that’s going to happen.”
“It’s about time we got this moving forward,” Coun. Alton Toth said in a written statement read out at the meeting. He acknowledged that a public facility would be the community’s preferred choice, “but the province said this isn’t happening. We need this and the only thing council should be considering is land use.”
“I tend to agree,” said Coun. Matt McLean. “We could fight this, costing staffing time and taxpayer money, or we could work towards a design that supports the neighbourhood… I choose to put time into things we can control and not fight a losing fight.”
It was Mayor Darnelda Siegers who raised the subject of the Seniors Advocate report and the “shortcomings” it identified in monitoring, oversight, accountability and other areas. “I agree that these should be addressed and I would advocate for the province to put in the proper checks and balances,” she said. “But it’s up to the province to address these issues, not the municipality. That’s their mandate.”
Council’s unanimous support for moving ahead with the Trellis application – which will include a public information meeting and a public hearing at later stages – was not a surprise. The mayor and councillors are correct that it’s not their mandate to look beyond land use considerations. That’s a big job in itself.
The public, however, should be absolutely outraged about the 207,000 hours of missing care – undelivered care that the private companies were paid for anyway. And that’s just in one year.
Isobel Mackenzie called this “one of the more troubling findings” from her review. Travesty is a better word. The premier and the health minister have a travesty on their hands, and we still haven’t heard what they’re going to do about it.