Seniors and housing minister Josephine Pon brought greetings to Cold Lake Lodge last week. JEFF GAYE

Alberta seniors and housing minister Josephine Pon visited seniors’ lodges in Cold Lake and Bonnyville last week, but due to pandemic restrictions was not able to visit with residents.

The new Cold Lake Lodge has been occupied for more than a year, but was not able to hold a grand opening this spring because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Lakeland Lodge and Housing Foundation hopes to hold a formal ceremony next year, but in the meantime welcomed Pon last Wednesday to visit and offer some remarks.

“This is an impressive accomplishment,” Pon said. “These 61 units in Cold Lake Seniors Lodge will provide a comfortable and safe home for seniors. And we all know that seniors want to stay close to their children, their chosen community, and their friends.”

She said the new lodge shows how effectively the provincial and federal governments, who together provided $16 million in funding, can partner with nonprofits for the benefit of seniors.

Foundation chair Chris Vining said the project took 11 years from the creation of a needs assessment to the completion of construction. There is still an identified need for self-contained housing units to be built on the site.

Pon said the current provincial government is open to undertaking that phase of the project.

“We always will look at all the different kinds of applications,” she said.  “I’m working for the future and definitely will look at any project that is good for the community.”

On Thursday Pon visited Bonnylodge, where extensive construction is nearing completion. The foundation expects it will be able to welcome new residents in mid-November.

Bonnyville town councillor and foundation vice-chair Ray Prevost said the expanded Bonnylodge will have 121 rooms to accommodate 130 people, in addition to 60 self-contained units which will accommodate 70 people.

The project began in 2009, since which time “we’ve had dealings with nine minsters and three MLAs,” Prevost said.

Including deferred work to be completed in spring 2021, the project cost $45 million, all of it funded by the province.

Pon recognized the cooperation of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in financing the project. “This is one of the good things about a partnership,” she said. “My hope is that we’ll continue to do that for affordable housing and seniors’ lodges. I continue to look forward to partnership with the federal government, municipalities, and the private sector as well as nonprofit organizations. 

“If we come together, we can get things done,” she said. 

Local officials and media were offered a glimpse inside the new wing at Bonnylodge, including the great room and a residential room.