Press Release – Nov 2/18

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PRESS RELEASE: November 2, 2018

Protect Public Health Care – Sunshine Coast (PPHC) delivers open letter to Nicholas Simons

Media Contact: Ian McLatchie: imclatchie@gmail.com 604-885-9705

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As the group spearheading opposition to privatized care on the Sunshine Coast, PPHC has led a number of actions in defence of publicly funded and operated senior care in our community, including a 10,000-signature petition to the provincial Legislature.

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the NDP’s failure to honour its pre-election promises. The Horgan government has withdrawn its long-standing support for publicly funded and operated care and abandoned opposition to a deal involving Trellis Senior Services. In the nine months since Health Minister Adrian Dix voiced support for a proposed deal between Trellis and the Sechelt Indian Band not a single new long-term care space has been created. Stakeholder groups continue to be shut out of the decision-making process, the fate of Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe remains unclear, and workers have been offered no guarantees on job security or the protection of pensions or benefits. The care crisis that the NDP inherited has only grown worse in its in its eighteen months in office, with no resolution in sight.

Attached please find a copy of an open letter addressed to MLA Nicholas Simons (which we ask that you publish) along with a compilation of some of Mr. Simons’ comments on private and public care made between June 2016 and November 2018.

As the letter makes clear, we recognize that responsibility for the present crisis lies with the Ministry of Health and the Vancouver Health Authority, not Mr. Simons. However, we are distressed by how muted Mr. Simons’ opposition to privatized care has become since the election. As the comment sheet shows, he has gone from being a passionate opponent of all forms of privatized care to at best a timid critic of a proposed deal involving the same private operator whose presence on the Coast he once roundly denounced. We ask Mr. Simons to renew his opposition to privatized care and to use all the leverage he can muster as a four-term incumbent to bring pressure on his government. We encourage Mr. Simons to meet with us to discuss ways to end a health-care crisis in our community.

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Dear Mr. Simons:

It is now eighteen months since the NDP took power in British Columbia. Prior to the election the party opposed privatized senior care, condemned the VCH-Trellis deal and vowed to begin a process of stakeholder engagement.

Since taking office your government has broken all its pre-election promises. Minister Dix has thrown his support behind a proposed contract involving Trellis and the Sechelt Indian Band. Stakeholder groups remain shut out and the chronic bed shortage grows worse monthly.

We recognize that these are not your decisions, but are deeply concerned by the softening of your position on private care. Prior to the election you repeatedly denounced private care in all its forms as harmful both to the quality of care and the economic health of the community. Since then, you have offered no more forceful condemnation of the Trellis- SIB deal than to suggest that it doesn’t “entirely” address public concerns about privatization.

We also take exception to your reluctance to, as you put it in a January meeting at Sechelt Library, “beat up on government.” As constituents, may we suggest that when the government pursues policies completely at odds with positions on which you ran, that’s exactly your place. The abject betrayal of our interests demands a forceful response.

As PPHC’s 10,000-signature petition campaign showed, no issue is more important to our community than protecting public care. Given the current seat count in the Legislature,
the prospect of having a member leave government to sit as an Independent could
carry tremendous political weight. We urge you to unequivocally affirm your opposition to privatization and take whatever steps are necessary to help safeguard quality, publicly owned and operated care on the Sunshine Coast.

We welcome the chance to meet with you on this matter. Sincerely,

Wendy Hunt
Chair, Protect Public Health Care – Sunshine Coast

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Nicholas Simons on Public vs. Private Care

June 29, 2016 Town hall meeting organized by Nicholas Simons re. Silverstone project July 6, 2016 – The Local:

Responding to a VCH pamphlet about the Silverstone contract, Simons tells June 29 meeting he does not accept that public underwriting of a long-term care facility involving a for-profit operator qualifies as public care. “Long-term care for the Sunshine Coast would become a for- profit enterprise, owned and run by fairly large corporate players,” he says. He adds that the health authority is being disingenuous about the fate of current employees at Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge.

“Vancouver Coastal Health had the nerve to try to reassure folks by saying that everyone who was interested would have an interview with Trellis,” said Simons, citing examples of union workers elsewhere in BC that had been passed over when public facilities turned private.

Friday July 8, 2016 – Coast Reporter reports that at the June 29 meeting, MLA Nicholas Simons pledges to fight VCH plan for the future of long-term care on the lower Sunshine Coast.

August 19, 2016 – Coast Reporter:

Picture of Nicholas Simons with the petition opposing VCH’s closure of Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge facilities. “I think this plan can and should be stopped, and that the Ministry of Health (should) come and talk to the community to find a solution we can support,” Simons said.

February 3, 2017 – Coast Reporter:

NDP MLA Nicholas Simons says he and his party oppose the VCH plan and will fight to stop it. “The values of the party I represent, am proud to represent, are against the privatization of health care in any of its forms,” Simons says. “I am happy to have a petition in my office with about 10,000 signatures from people like you . . . .We’ll continue the fight – and thanks for putting some wind in my sails.”

March 3, 2017 – Coast Reporter:

Picture of Nicholas Simons presenting the petition in the Legislature. “Before tabling the petition, which at last count had 10,000 signatures, Simons raised the issue in Question Period, asking: ‘Will the (health) minister explain to the family members and caregivers why seniors are paying the price for this government’s failure?’”

March 30, 2017 – The Local:
In his column Nicholas Simons gives his views on seniors’ care:

I am strongly against the idea of introducing the profit motive in caring for seniors because we know the profit is taken away from the care. Public care is better. We have more control over it. It doesn’t involve the firing and possible re-hiring of employees. The level of care that’s achieved is better for our communities where we have living wages where people can afford to raise their family and contribute to the well-being of our community.

Yet we find ourselves in a position where government pretends that it doesn’t have capital to invest in public infrastructure. What they’re proposing is inadequate for our current needs, let alone our future needs.

April 2, 2017, All-candidates meeting:
Simons says that the NDP strongly disagrees with the privatization of health care. April 14, 2017 – Coast Reporter:

NDP MLA Nicholas Simons said he does not support the VCH plan. “Neither the public nor health care workers were consulted on the VCH long-term care strategy, resulting in one that is very difficult to support . . . . introducing for-profit privatization of care for our seniors on the Sunshine Coast reduces the standards of care for seniors, results in massive job losses and uncertainty for health care workers, and results in less money circulating in our communities.”

Simons adds that the NDP is in favour of keeping our health care system public. January 23, 2018 – Constituency meeting, Sechelt Library:

In the wake of reports that a deal between Trellis and the Sechelt Indian Band is in the works, Simons says he would not rule out the possibility of sitting as an Independent if long-term care were privatized on the Sunshine Coast. Asked if will denounce a deal involving a for-profit operator, he gives a single-word answer: “Absolutely.”

February 9, 2018 – Coast Reporter podcast:

With Adrian Dix having offered support for the proposed SIB-Trellis deal, Simons says he thinks that the proposal “goes a long way to addressing people’s concerns around the protection of jobs.” He adds that, “I stand firmly by my strong conviction that we need to . . . prevent the erosion of our public health care system.” Contrary to Freedom of Information findings published by the Coast Reporter on January 5, 2017, he suggests that VCH remains locked into a contract with Trellis and that the cost of breaking the deal is “clearly not in the best interests of the public.” He characterizes the proposed Trellis-SIB deal as “a definite partial victory” that will protect jobs.

Week of February 20, 2018 – CKAY-FM interview:

Without offering any evidence, Simons says that he senses opposition to private care is diminishing on the Sunshine Coast as the long-term care crisis becomes more acute.

April 5, 2018 – The Local:

In his column, Simons says of Adrian Dix’s February 19 appearance at Sechelt Legion, that “not everyone was prepared to be convinced that a deal between Trellis and VCH is a good solution to replace Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe.” He adds that “it does appear to be the solution we are legally obliged to go with. The advances Minister Dix was able to win for current employees over the previous conditions is a good thing.” At the meeting in question, Dix made only vague references to preserving current wage levels and avoided questions about whether Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe workers would be laid off and lose their pensions and benefits if the Trellis-SIB project goes ahead.

November 1, 2018 – The Local:

In his column, Simons says that, “recently I’ve spoken to the Minister of Health about the slow progress on increasing long-term care spaces for seniors,” but gives no indication that he used the meeting to speak out against for-profit care.