Picket signs greeted Health Minister Adrian Dix in Sechelt on March 19, protesting the NDP government’s decision to continue to partner with Trellis Seniors Services to build a for-profit care facility to replace two public facilities, Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe.
Dix addressed a special meeting of the NDP constituency at the Sechelt Legion. A standing-room-only crowd, many of them NDP supporters and health care workers, was vocal in its disappointment that the NDP has not cancelled the Trellis contract since taking office. (The decision to have Trellis build the new facility was made under the Liberal government in 2016 by Vancouver Coastal Health without community consultation.)
But Dix was not apologetic. “It was a legitimate contract and one, like other contracts, that had to be respected,” said Dix. He said that the NDP government talked to the Sechelt First Nation to find a location in Sechelt, and then negotiated job security for the staff from Totem and Shorncliffe.
“We did what we could do and I’m proud of it. Did we make it perfect? Did we do everything you wanted us to do? Did we overturn or rip up contracts? No we didn’t,” said DIx.
A series of specific questions and criticisms from the crowd regarding the Trellis contract and private health care received vague replies from Dix, who pointed to the bigger picture of aging public care facilities across BC which need replacement, and the importance of raising standards of care.
The final question of the evening came from Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne, who addressed the NDP’s “pragmatic” approach to health care and other issues, such as Site C. “No matter how hard you work with the investors behind Trellis and (Trellis president) Mary McDougall, she’s not going to support the New Democrats,” said Milne. “Probably 90 per cent of the people in this room supported the NDP. So, are you being too pragmatic and not aspirational enough?”
“I think we owe an obligation to people to be pragmatic,” said Dix, “We are just getting started in trying to build a better world.”