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New B.C. seniors' advocate proposed

Minister of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan - Black Press files
Minister of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – The B.C. government's proposal to create a new seniors' advocate office is being criticized as a pre-election gesture to create a position that won't have the authority to hold government accountable on problems faced by seniors.

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid tabled legislation this week to create the new position. Unlike the Auditor General and the Representative for Children and Youth, the office would not be independent, but would report to the health ministry.

MacDiarmid said the new seniors' advocate will monitor seniors' services and work with policy-makers, senior care providers and others to identify solutions to "systemic issues" such as those faced by families navigating the province's system of seniors' care.

Katrine Conroy, NDP critic for seniors, said it has been six years since the opposition first called for a new seniors' watchdog. Conroy said she is disappointed that the proposed office not only has no set budget, it is not intended to investigate individual cases.

"We won't see it before the [May 14] election," Conroy predicted.

Premier Christy Clark appointed West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan to a new Minister of State for Seniors position last fall.

"I have heard from seniors, their families and care providers throughout the province about the many non-medical issues that seniors face that make it difficult for them to remain in their homes," Sultan said.

A seniors' advocate office will help improve government support systems for health care, personal care, housing, transportation and income support, Sultan said.

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