Opposition leader John Nilson once again took aim at the government’s plan to close the Valley View Centre (VVC) during a discussion with the Times-Herald Wednesday.
“It’s a major employer in Moose Jaw, so that has to be taken into account as this transition takes place,” said Nilson. “We know that a project for a new hospital is in the works in Moose Jaw ... (and that) some of these jobs may be translated into working with the regional health authority. But it is becoming a big question for the people of Moose Jaw.”
The source of the confusion, Nilson said, has been an apparent lack of clarity on the part of the Saskatchewan Party government about their plans for the more than 200 residents and more than 500 employees of the Valley View Centre.
“The communications about their plans have been very poor, and we are concerned. What we know is that we have people from Moose Jaw and area phoning us about this issue,” said Nilson. “The gist of many of the calls is, ‘We don’t know what’s going on,’ and in fact, people are worried that there is no plan.”
But June Draude, the minister of social services, dismissed Nilson’s criticisms as being politically motivated.
“I believe that Mr. Nilson would have liked us to bring forward a plan that he can pick apart,” she said. “I don’t want a plan that I can pick apart. I don’t want a plan that says this is something the government wants. I want a plan brought forth by the people, and by the families of the residents at Valley View.”
The province is waiting the results of consultations between members of the ministry, family of the residents, and other stakeholders in the centre before it moves forward with any concrete plan, Draude said.
“I’m waiting to see what the plan is that is brought forward by the families and residents,” she said. “It would be irresponsible to put out a plan saying that this is what might happen when I don’t know what the (requested) changes will be.”
Nilson also criticized the government for the sudden nature of their announcement that the Centre would be closed.
“The way they announced it, by just surprising everybody ... that adds further uncertainty and concern for the residents, for the families, and for all of the workers who are a part of the extended family,” he said.
But Draude was bemused by Nilson’s surprise.
“Being that it was the NDP who stopped taking in residents (at the VVC) in 2002 and this was announced over 10 years later, it isn’t a great surprise,” she said. “If Mr. Nilson can be surprised having known that for 10 years, I’m surprised that it surprised him.”
Draude said she hopes for a little more patience on the part of all parties involved.
“We’re getting very close to the time when the (proposed) plan will be presented, and when we can start making some decisions,” she said. “I really do appreciate the fact it’s not easy on the employees, and I do need them to know the work they’re doing is absolutely critical to people with complex needs.”
“I appreciate and respect the work that they’re doing, and as quickly as we can, we’ll be discussing the future with them and with the families,” she said.