Manitoba Liberals are calling for the establishment of a Manitoba Seniors’ Advocate and a Seniors’ Bill of Rights, following the passage of resolutions at the party’s annual general meeting on Saturday. Due to COVID-19, the Manitoba Liberal AGM was held virtually, with only organizers and MLAs present on site.
Modelled after the B.C. Seniors’ Advocate, the establishment of an independent office to research, investigate and defend the interests of seniors and families has been a long-standing policy plank for the Liberals and was put forward by them during last year’s provincial election. With the pandemic especially hitting personal care homes and seniors hard, the need for such an advocate has never been greater, said Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont.
“One of the things that we’re dealing with as MLAs is that you’ll hear from seniors themselves or from family members that they’ve got a problem at a personal care home or a long-term care home and they have no one to complain to so they have to talk to their MLA,” said Lamont, who was affirmed as party leader by an unanimous vote at the AGM. “We’ve really seen this blow up with cases of COVID at Parkview Place and other places and we need someone who is independent of politics to look into these things and to advocate for seniors.”
A COVID-19 outbreak at Parkview Place, a personal care home in downtown Winnipeg, has claimed the lives of 15 Manitobans while public health officials reported a death Saturday linked to an outbreak at Misericordia Place. As well, four new outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Winnipeg were announced by the province on Friday.
“(With a Seniors’ Advocate) seniors can have someone to go to and if they have a case, they can say, ‘This is something that the government really should be doing a better job and has an obligation to our seniors to take care of them,’ ” said Lamont, noting that funding for long-term care facilities has been frozen since 2005 when the NDP were in power. “When that doesn’t happen, they’ve got someone to go to to fix it.”
The theme of the AGM was “Building a Strong Manitoba” and included policy resolutions focused on pandemic support and recovery, as well as addressing long-standing issues that have been left to worsen under the PCs and NDP alike, party officials said. The AGM had originally been scheduled to take place in the spring but had to be rescheduled due to COVID pandemic.
“There is a point when the virus will be past us and we’ll look back on it,” said Lamont. “But that isn’t now and I’m looking forward to the day when we can have all of our meetings together or not have people freezing up on Zoom all the time.”