I’m writing with regard to our city council’s heavy-handed decision to expropriate land owned by Scouts Canada which was to be purchased by the province’s mental health association. It’s a sad day when the city uses its legal weight to undercut a long-standing, 50 years in operation — as of this year, by my count — local charity and service provider such as our mental health association.
The city should have tried to help this transaction for both charities involved and see the proposed new facility by the mental health association as a plus for the city and our citizens. Instead, it seems the city did an expropriation with no definitive plan for the space.
However, the mental health association should have made a better play for the land involved and not just propose it as offices for itself or others. A spokesperson for the association indicated vague plans for the association’s “vision” for the land but did say that the office building would raise the “profile” of mental illness in the community. Buildings and profile do not necessarily make for good public relations or image — see the Waterford as an example — but addressing local needs for those less fortunate or dealing with major mental illness does.
The association’s vision for the land proposed should have included a few, at least, affordable, modern and well-designed apartments for people in need. By focusing on an office building for itself the association shows itself to be out of touch with the huge local problem of affordable housing for those in need, including people the association is supposed to serve, and its own responsibility to address that very need.
The country’s mental health commission has recently stated the well-known and obvious fact, in yet another money-wasting study: that housing is the key social element to people with mental illness leading healthy and productive lives in our communities. Where would any of us be without a good, affordable and comfortable place to live?
Both the city and the association would do well to revisit their decisions for the land in question, work together and address the true local needs for which they both exist to address.