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Estevan MLA fields questions on child care, nursing home from city council

Carr also discussed health care, mental health and housing.
Estevan MLA Lori Carr.

ESTEVAN - Estevan MLA Lori Carr spent about 30 minutes addressing issues in the community and the region during an appearance at Estevan city council June 12.

Carr, who was a city councillor from 2003-2009 and 2012-2016, began by talking about surgical wait times. She noted the number of surgeries has increased, but there is still more work to trim the waitlist.

"We have the incentives in place for nurses and different designations that are hard to find in rural communities," said Carr. "There's an incentive that if they go to that community, they get a cash payout. They have to stay a certain amount of time, but it's lucrative if they stay in rural communities."

When question period began, Coun. Kirsten Walliser brought up the issue of $10 per day child care. Saskatchewan brought in the program faster than other areas, but people have told her the province skipped steps by not having the necessary training or adequate wages for child-care providers.

"There aren't enough physical seats, so waitlists are over 1,000 in certain cities in this province, so even though people need child care, they're being told it could be three to five years before a spot is available for their child," Walliser said.

Carr replied that all parameters were courtesy of the federal government. The province wanted flexibility in the program so funding would flow to the parents rather than the facilities, so she said it was disappointing when that didn't happen.

The province has what Carr called "a pretty aggressive" call-out for individuals who want to open day cares. The training has been made easier for those who want to work in that type of environment.

Coun. Rebecca Foord asked if the government was looking to have foreign recruiting drives for social workers, similar to what has happened for health-care workers. She also suggested there could be an education push.

"I do believe a lot of problems would be solved if we actually had a lot more social workers in our province," said Foord. "You hear it throughout all of Canada. We have a mental health crisis throughout the world right now."

Carr said there are no plans at this time. 

Coun. Travis Frank asked about the Saskatchewan Housing Authority and the city's responsibility if there are financial losses. He would like to see the city once again have a seat at the table to provide for more collaboration.

Carr said council had a person on the Estevan Housing Authority board at one time. She said there's nothing preventing a city councillor from sitting on the board, but Walliser countered that she had her name put forward for the authority by Mayor Roy Ludwig, but just before her first meeting, she was told being an elected official was an exclusion criteria, and she wouldn't be allowed to attend.

Carr said she would look into the matter.

Coun. Shelly Veroba then broached a couple of issues with Carr. One was mental health and addictions. During the recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in Toronto, the issue was discussed at length.

While Estevan doesn't have a large homeless problem, Veroba believes it's more than people realize. As for drug problems, she believes there needs to be a focus on treatment, including the addictions treatment centre at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Coun. Lindsay Clark wanted an update on the new nursing home. A needs assessment released last month showed Estevan needs 167 long-term care beds instead of the 108 currently in the city. A business case, to be completed later this year, will confirm the number of beds and the location of the building.

This will drive up the cost of the project and Estevan's 20 per cent share, but it won't delay the start of construction.

Walliser pointed out that working in a long-term care facility, she knows people want to keep their loved ones close to home.

"It is heartbreaking the number of members of our community that are spread across southeast Saskatchewan, waiting for a call, that a bed is available in their hometown."

Coun. Tony Sernick thanked the provincial government for bringing some truth to the conversation regarding the energy sector, and he also lauded Premier Scott Moe for visiting Estevan last month. But he also criticized the premier for not meeting with city council. Others were also in the meeting. 

Carr countered the meeting had RM reeves, union leaders and council members.

She noted that when people have a concern with government services, they can call her office. If it's something bigger, then the government will do case work to address the matter.