B.C. Liberals missed opportunity to appoint fully independent seniors advocate

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VICTORIA – New Democrats are welcoming the long-awaited appointment of a seniors advocate, but say seniors in the province were denied a truly independent advocate.

“Today the B.C. Liberals finally announced the appointment of a seniors advocate, which New Democrats have been calling for since 2007. There is a very real need for this position, as seniors across the province face both individual and systemic problems and struggle to get the care they need and deserve,” said New Democrat seniors critic Katrine Conroy.

New Democrats introduced bills calling for a similar position in 2007, 2011 and 2013, but the B.C. Liberal government refused to implement them. Conroy says she is pleased to see the position finally being established, but pointed out the government stopped short of giving seniors a truly independent voice, and one that can investigate both individual and systemic problems.

“Already we have seen today that this advocate is not empowered to look at individual issues facing seniors. These individual issues often signal systemic problems, which is why we called for an advocate that would be empowered to look at problems on both a systemic and individual level,” said Conroy.

“We also have called for a strong and independent advocate that would be able to stand up for seniors without being encumbered by the reality of being employed by the people whose decisions she is evaluating.”

Conroy also noted that a scathing 2012 report from B.C.’s Ombudsperson on the state of seniors health, which put forward 176 recommendations, has been largely ignored by the government.

“Seniors and their families in this province deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect they rightfully have earned. I welcome the appointment of Isobel Mackenzie, and by all accounts she looks like a good choice for the role, but I am disappointed the B.C. Liberals refused to give her the independence she needs to be most effective for the seniors of our province.”