Well played, shíshálh Nation

Editorial

As Sechelt council dithered and a deal appeared to be in the making last summer to relocate the Trellis long-term care facility to Gibsons, we expected to hear some heavy objections from one formidable group in particular – the shíshálh Nation.

Why? Because the closure of Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe in Sechelt would have forced the Nation’s elders who require long-term care to spend their twilight years in a facility located outside shíshálh territory – in Squamish territory, to be exact.

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We didn’t expect this would go over well at all.

But, instead of protesting the Gibsons deal, the shíshálh Nation did something brilliant. They entered into negotiations with Vancouver Coastal Health and the contracted long-term care provider, Trellis Seniors Services, and are now poised to welcome the facility on their own lands, accruing all the benefits that will go with it.

Mayor Wayne Rowe listed those benefits last year when arguing the case for the Shaw Road location. For Gibsons it would have meant more than $2 million from the sale of land, almost $1 million in development cost charges, $140,000 in building permit fees, and more than $100,000 in annual property taxes. It would also have meant jobs, spinoffs, a less crowded Sechelt Hospital due to 20 urgently needed new beds in the system, and maximum convenience for families and friends of residents. Seniors would live closer to home, receive more visits and therefore enjoy a higher quality of life.

Gibsons will be disappointed with Health Minister Adrian Dix’s revelation this week that the parties are close to a deal with shíshálh Nation, but will have to concede that situating the only two care homes on the Sunshine Coast next to each other at its southern extremity would not have been fair to half the Coast’s population. Council tried – they did their job by acting in the interests of the people who elected them – and we can confidently predict they will be gracious about this turn of events.

Sechelt council will be in a stickier position. By delaying the project, council members no doubt believed they were also acting in the interests of the people who elected them – represented by the highly organized opposition to the Trellis deal. However, that deal has changed significantly, as Dix pointed out. Trellis, he said, has committed to retain current staff, and he’s informed VCH that he wants no reduction in staff wages and benefits. Those are major concessions.

Some will still be ideologically opposed to a for-profit company providing publicly funded care, but many more, we suspect, will feel Sechelt lost out on an important project after it literally fell into the district’s lap.

It’s a great story to tell the grandparents.

While the District of Sechelt slept, the shíshálh Nation got up and went fishing.

And it looks like they’re bringing home a very good catch.

© Copyright Coast Reporter

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