BRITISH COLUMBIA – The province has appointed the first-ever B.C. seniors advocate and Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele is hopeful it will result in change.
The advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, will begin work on March 31 and brings 18 years of experience working with seniors.
"I think if her office is structured properly, she can be a huge help and do an awful lot," Steele said, who is chair of the city’s seniors advisory and accessibility committee.
The government says the seniors advocate office will "monitor seniors’ services, promote awareness and work collaboratively with seniors, families, policymakers, service providers and others to identify solutions to systemic issues and make recommendations to government on ways to improve care for our aging population."
Steele said seniors today face many issues – here in Surrey and beyond – and hopes the advocate will fight to address them. Transit is a big concern for seniors living in Surrey, Steele said, referring to the bus system as well as HandyDART.
Steele mentioned other major issues affecting seniors across the province include elder abuse and dealing with rising living costs on a fixed income.
With a growing seniors population in Surrey, she is encouraged by the government’s creation of the advocate. "I have high hopes, I really do. And I think the office is much needed," Steele said. "I hope it’s not restricted to Victoria. I hope it spreads wide and far and I hope that she’s able to work with a lot of people that work so hard in the industry trying to help people, trying to get things straight. I hope there’s a willingness to involve that kind of broad spectrum."
While the news is welcomed by some, the Opposition is criticizing the government, saying the position is not truly independent. In a release, New Democrat seniors critic Katrine Conroy said "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."