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Opinion: Hey city councillors, if you’re going to debate selling our home, at least have the courage to look us in the eye

Manor resident, renowned author and former Northern Life columnist, Mick Lowe, weighs in on a perennial Sudbury question: What to do about Pioneer Manor?

By Mick Lowe

Well, I see the future of my much-loved home, Pioneer Manor, is being kicked around like an old football at city council once again.

And make no mistake: this is our home, all 433 souls who reside here. We are not just some random collection of accidental tourists. Nor are we mere tenants. 

No, legally we are considered to be home owners, and I wish the next city councillor who offers a glib solution to a complex problem like the city’s runaway budget, like, “Hey I’ve got it! Let’s sell off Pioneer Manor!” would come here, look me and my fellow residents square in the eye, and explain just how, on God’s green earth, this makes any sense. 

I think that, given our collective investment in the place (we contribute about $10 million annually), we are owed at least that much.

But they never do come here and look us in the eye, and I am personally affronted by such sheer, unmitigated, cowardly, perfervid gall.

A Question of Dollars …

Of course it takes a lot more than $10 million per to run this vast space, one of the largest long-term care facilities in the province — $37,725,996 in 2018, to be exact. The bulk of the difference between what we pay and that total is provided by the province — $22,548,727 again in 2018, the last year in which actual dollar figures were available as of this writing. Keep that last tidy sum in mind. 

I repeat: Queen’s Park paid well over $22 million to the City of Greater Sudbury to keep the Manor’s lights on in 2018. And still we hear the rending of garments, wailing and gnashing of teeth emanating from the eminent solons at city hall.

That’s because even after our rents and co-pays and the not-inconsiderable largesse of what was then the Wynne government, there’s still a shortfall to be borne by you, the municipal taxpayer: nearly $6 million in 2019. And you can expect that figure to rise sharply in the coming years.

Little wonder then, that council’s beady eyes come to rest on that last figure in an effort to reduce the city’s annual budget of nearly half a billion.

“Long Term Care?!?” Who needs that? Nobody dictates we have to have that!”

… and Sense

They’re right about that: Recent revisions to provincial legislation no longer mandate that municipalities, especially in the North, are required to own and operate nursing homes.

But, assume that the city could find a willing buyer for a money-losing venture, and cut through the forest of red tape the province could be expected to throw in its way (a knowledgeable insider here once confided that Queen’s Park really doesn’t want to allow publicly run homes to be sold off), there’s one other lingering little question: Remember that $22 million the province kicks in to city revenues to run Pioneer Manor?

What happens to that?

Aaron Archibald, the head administrator here at the Manor, once put that question to the pooh-bahs over at the Northeast LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), which holds the purse-strings for health care spending hereabouts.

The answer: No one knows. 

Maybe the provincial funds would remain in Sudbury, or maybe they wouldn’t. It might be re-allocated to a vote-rich place (read: southern Ontario) where the government desperately needs to win a seat to retain power.

So, does Council really want to risk losing $22 million annually to save $6 million?

It simply makes no sense.

To say nothing of risking the 500-plus jobs here and the future of 433 Sudbury seniors.

Let me make a positive suggestion: Let’s turn down the rhetoric and make peace. Come see the place — and the people — this is all about. Come visit me. I’ll personally give you a guided tour of this amazing place, a true jewel in the crown of the city’s far-flung assets.

I’m in Room 311, Trillium West. 

Home most any time.

A long-time columnist at Northern Life, Mick Lowe served two terms as president of the Residents’ Council at Pioneer Manor from 2011-2014. A prolific author, his most recent book is Wintersong, the third volume of the The Nickel Range Trilogy.