The Seniors Vote initiative was formally launched at a meeting in Ottawa held at the Canadian Nurses Association.
To all Ministers of Finance and Opposition Finance Critics
Seniors Vote is a collaboration of seniors, retirees, professional and advocacy groups raising common concerns which particularly resonate with older Canadians – financial security in retirement and healthcare reform. The attached details the recommendations for the upcoming federal budget and our priority issues for the 2015 federal election.
It is now common knowledge that older Canadians are the most committed voters; 65% or more of older voters turnout to vote regularly. Older Canadians are also among the most politically engaged voters whose past party loyalty cannot be taken for granted. This has led all political parties to ask:
“What do seniors want?”
And the answer has been the call for the kind of transformative change in our public systems that will make life better for all Canadians as they age. Many such reforms will only benefit future generations.
Seniors Vote calls for pension reform to ensure that people will not outlive their money by expanding access to pension savings and increasing income support.
The call for healthcare reform demands that Canadians not be treated as health consumers or merely patients, but rather as “healthcare citizens” who pay for the system and expect it to serve the broad values set out in the Canada Health Act – universality, accessibility and comprehensiveness. To do this, the healthcare system must undergo transformative change and centre itself around the needs and expectations of the healthcare citizen, to not only provide medical intervention but also support prevention and social determinants of health, the family caregiver and end of life care.
Seniors want to stay in their own homes but too often programs like homecare are not there for them to do so. There is a need for a national housing strategy that includes seniors housing. Access to affordable and suitable housing is a major determinant of health, an instrument to reduce poverty and a critical component of age-friendly communities.
Income inequality is growing in Canada. More seniors are falling below the poverty line. Seniors are also concerned that too many of their children and grandchildren are facing precarious work and a bleak future.
It is clear that Seniors indeed vote. This sets out what Seniors will vote for. Today’s ballot questions are the blueprint for our children’s tomorrow.
1.Income and Retirement Security
Achieving income security in working life and retirement is increasingly difficult for Canadians of all ages.
- Nearly 5 million Canadians live in poverty
- 12 percent of seniors still live in poverty, amounting to more 600,000 people
- 1 in 6 single seniors live in poverty, most of whom are women
- Twelve million working Canadians do not have workplace pension plans and significant number of Canadians will face a substantial drop in their standard of living on retirement
- Younger working Canadians will have especially limited access to workplace pensions
Seniors Vote calls on the federal government to:
Work with provinces to increase the CPP
- Strengthen income support by
- Restoring the OAS eligibility age to 65 from 67
- Increase the exempt earnings band for GIS
- Increasing the amount of OAS and GIS for low income seniors
- Increase income supports for low-income single older Canadians not yet eligible for OAS by creating an equivalent to the OAS spousal allowance
- Prohibit retroactive erosion of earned pension benefits
Federal Leadership on Healthcare Transformation
Healthcare remains the highest priority for Canadians who are calling for transformative change. Older Canadians and their families find the system inadequate to the task of meeting their postacute and chronic care needs, very difficult to navigate, and incomplete
Over 8 million caregivers provide invaluable support to family members and the formal health system, without adequate support from employers and government
Poverty, social isolation, a poor physical environment, and inadequate housing leads to poor health outcomes. Investments in prevention and in the social determinants of health could save the system money and produce better health outcomes for Canadians
Transforming the healthcare system to better work for all Canadians requires federal leadership
Seniors Vote calls on the federal government to:
- Work with the provinces to create a national pharmacare plan, with an ultimate goal of first dollar coverage for all Canadians
- Work with the provinces to fund and set standards to improve access, affordability, and quality of post-acute and chronic care, in the home and in the community, with particular focus on dementia care
- Increase financial support and provide workplace protection for caregivers
- Work with the provinces to ensure every Canadian has access to housing appropriate to need, including affordable and supportive housing, and assisted living services
Seniors Vote is endorsed by:
National Pensioners Federation (NPF) National advocacy organization of seniors groups and individuals
CARP National advocacy organization for older Canadians
Réseau FADOQ Quebec Seniors advocacy organization
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) Union retirees across Canada
International Federation on Aging (IFA) International advocacy NGO
College of Family Physicians of Canada Family physicians across Canada
CURAC National college and university retiree organizations
National Association of Federal Retirees Retired public servants, veterans and RCMP
Canadian Association of Retired Teachers (ACER-CART) Retired teachers from 10 provinces and Yukon territory
Canadian Alliance of United Seniors (CAUS) Seniors organization
Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO) Advocacy group for 75+ BC seniors’ organizations
Professional Institute of the Public Sector of Canada Government scientists and professionals
Service Employees International Union Retirees (SEIU) Retired Healthcare workers
Communications Workers of Canada Retirees Council Communications industry retirees
Unifor Retirees Retired workers from a cross section of industries across Canada
Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Retired Steelworkers and spouses
Police Pensioners Association of Ontario (PPAO) Retired police and civilians
Ontario Federation of Union Retirees (OFUR) Ontario retirees
Retired Members Division of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Retired Ontario public employees
PEI Federation of Union Retirees PEI retirees
Saskatchewan Seniors Association Incorporated (SSAI) Saskatchewan Seniors
Saskatchewan Union Retirees Federation Saskatchewan retirees
BC Federation of Retired Union Members BC retirees
Alberta Federation of Union Retirees Alberta retirees
Nova Scotia Government Retired Employees Association (NSGREA) Retired Nova Scotia public servants
Nova Scotia Federation of Union Retirees Nova Scotia retirees
Federation of Senior Citizens and Pensioners of Nova Scotia (FSCPNS) Nova Scotia seniors
New Brunswick Federation of Union Retirees New Brunswick retirees
Manitoba Federation of Union Retirees Manitoba retirees
British Columbia Teachers Union Retirees Retired BC school teachers
The Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO/ERO) College, university, school faculty and support staff
Social Services Network (SSN) Social services agency serving South Asian community in York region
CUPE Ontario-Retirees-Network Retired Ontario public employees
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic Legal Aid Clinic
Toronto and York Region Labour Council Toronto and York Region unionized workers and Families
Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network (COPC) Ontario anti-poverty, anti-racism network
Toronto Retirees Network Toronto based retirees Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC)
Toronto and York Region Council (T&YR Council) Toronto and York Region retirees
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) ARM Chp 9, 11,12
Retired High school teachers and support staff in Toronto, Windsor and London
National Union Action on Retiree Concerns\ National Union of Provincial Government Employees (NUPGE) National association of provincial employees
Plus a growing number of regional and local groups
National pharmacare program could save $7.3 billion: study
A CMAJ study touted as a ‘game changer’ shows universal drug coverage could reduce total spending on drugs in Canada by $7.3 billion.
The call for a national pharmacare program has just grown louder with a new study showing it could reduce public and private spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion annually.
A paper published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal pokes holes in the argument that a national program would result in substantial tax increases.
A long-time barrier to the implementation of universal prescription drug coverage in Canada has been the assumption that it would require tax increases, said Dr. Danielle Martin, one of the authors.
“This analysis is a game changer. It says to governments that you can do this without having to increase taxes by a single penny, and that changes the whole conversation,” said Martin, who is also a vice president at Women’s College Hospital and an assistant professor in the departments of family and community medicine and health policy, management and evaluation at the University of Toronto.
Savings would be achieved through lower costs for generic- and brand-name drugs because of economies of scale in price negotiations and better product selection, according to the paper.
The study shows that, in a best-case scenario, universal public drug coverage would actually save taxpayers $2.9 billion annually; under the worst-case scenario, it would cost them $5.4 billion. The most realistic outcome — the base-case scenario — would see an annual cost to taxpayers of $1 billion.
The study did not take into account additional savings to the health system that would be achieved when those who cannot afford to fill prescriptions start taking medications. Nor did it take into account savings that would be derived through the more appropriate prescribing that a national system would be expected to promote.
A pharmacare program would be a boon to private-sector drug plans, according to the study. In a best-case scenario, the private sector would save $9.6 billion annually; in a worst-case scenario, it would save $6.6 billion. The base-case scenario, or most likely outcome, would see annual savings of $8.2 billion.
The question of whether Canada should have a pharmacare program is shaping up to be an issue in the upcoming federal election. Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins recently called on Ottawa to join the provinces and territories in providing a national pharmacare program.
The push for a national program dates back to 1964, when it was recommended by the Royal Commission on Health Services.
Lead author Steven Morgan points out that, except for Canada, every developed country with a universal health care system also has universal coverage of prescription drugs. Those countries include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
“It is absolutely unbelievable, given the amount of national pride Canadians have in our medicare system, that we would be such conspicuous outliers on pharmacare,” said Morgan, professor of health policy at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health.
About one in 10 Canadians report they cannot afford to take their medications as prescribed.
Prescription drugs are currently funded by a patchwork of public and private programs. Provincial drug plans, which cover certain populations such as the elderly and people on social assistance, along with private insurance plans, each account for 36 per cent of prescription costs in Canada. Out-of-pocket payments by patients account for 22 per cent; compulsory social insurance polices, such as workers’ compensation, cover 4 per cent; and federal drug plans that cover First Nations and other targeted populations account for 2 per cent.
Canadians spent just over $22 billion on drugs in 2012-13. Under a national pharmacare plan, spending would drop by 32 per cent, to $15.1 billion — for a savings of about $7.3 billion under a base-scenario estimate, according to the paper.
Income threshold lowered in the budget, saving province $3M
CBC News Posted: Mar 18, 2015 12:35 PM CT Last Updated: Mar 18, 2015 5:46 PM CT
A belt-tightening measure in the 2015-16 Saskatchewan budget will lower the income threshold for the senior’ drug plan.
It will mean 6,000 Saskatchewan seniors will no longer qualify for discounted prescriptions.
People eligible for the drug plan pay a maximum of $20 per prescription for drugs listed on the province’s formulary.
Previously, the province used the federal threshold of $80,255 as the cutoff for the drug plan. Anyone with a taxable income in excess of that amount was not eligible for the program.
Now, the threshold will be lowered to $65,515.
The change is being met with criticism, even from seniors who say they will not be affected.
“It actually should be going the other way,” Gloria Stanton said of the threshold. “We’re losing money every time we go to the store, every time we got to the restaurant, every time we go shopping. Everything is costing that much more.”
Stanton suggests a cutoff of around $90,000.
Another senior, Norma Friske, said she was looking for measures to assist the elderly in the budget.
“We’re in the lower level and we need help,” Friske said. “If they’re going to lower anything how about raising a little
for the seniors? Because we’re the ones who put this country on the map, that is a wonderful country. But the seniors need help.”
Finance Minister Ken Krawetz released the budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1 on Wednesday.
Access to more public washrooms in parks and transit stations should be included in the city’s updated seniors strategy, officials said Wednesday during a day-long planning session at Ottawa City Hall.
For months, the citizen-led GottaGo! campaign has been calling for the creation of a network of clean, safe and accessible public toilets. The group wants existing toilets fixed up with better signage and longer hours, and also wants to see toilets and water fountains installed in new light-rail transit stations along the Confederation Line.
But the GottaGo! campaigners don’t appear to be the only ones.
Seniors themselves say barriers such as inaccessible washrooms in city buildings and a lack of “age-friendly features” in parks can discourage some from leaving their homes.
Bay ward Coun. Mark Taylor says the issue is on the city’s radar.
“It’s clearly a need that emerged. Probably something we all knew existed for a long time,” he said, adding the challenge now is to figure out the path forward.
Adding washrooms to city-owned spaces are “easy wins,” Taylor said, but transit stations are more complicated because they would need to be built into the financial model. Cleanliness and security are also concerns.
“I think there are plenty of opportunities. We’re just going to have to plan out how and where we execute them,” he said.
Reopening the LRT contract with the Rideau Transit Group to add washrooms at Bayview and Hurdman — which are the farthest from any public-access toilets — could cost as much as $3 million, the city said, noting the figure was a rough estimate only.
There are washrooms planned for Tunney’s and Blair stations — located at either end of the line.
Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said washrooms and benches are vital if seniors are to use parks regularly, as many would like to.
“We’ve put a johnny-on-the-spot on some of our playing fields so that the children who are playing soccer can go to the washroom. We should be looking at that for the seniors as well,” she said.
Wilkinson said she’d like the city to launch a pilot study in a few parks to see how it goes.
Wednesday’s meeting — which included a morning session inside council chambers and breakout discussions in the afternoon — was designed to look at the successes of the city’s Older Adult Plan, which was approved in 2012 and now needs to be refreshed for this term of council.
There were more than 115,000 seniors (65 and over) living in Ottawa, according to the 2011 census. That’s about 13 per cent of the population, but that number is expected to rise steadily in the coming years. By 2031, more than one in five Ottawa residents will be over the age of 65, the city says.
Some of the key achievements so far include:
- Retrofitting 18 city facilities with additional automatic door openers and washroom grab bars
- Installing additional pedestrian signal technology at 12 intersections
- Buying and/or installing 34 new benches in areas of the city with high concentrations of seniors
The city released details of the plan late Wednesday:
Seniors have major stake in transit referendum: Access to transportation a key factor for health, wellbeing
March 17th, 2015 · Shannon Daub · No Comments · Seniors, Taxes
By Shannon Daub, Co-Director of the CCPA-BC’s Seniors Project, and
Sandra (Sandy) James LEED AP MCIP CCPI, Director, Walk Metro Vancouver Society
Between now and May, residents of Metro Vancouver will receive a mail-in ballot asking if they are in favour of a .5 percentage point increase on sales tax to fund transportation improvements in the region. Officially called the Congestion Improvement Tax (CIT), the revenue from this sales tax increase will fund public transit and transportation infrastructure and enhance levels of transit services.
Here is how the outcome of the Transportation Referendum will impact seniors, and why we believe a “Yes” vote will enhance seniors’ accessibility and livability in Metro Vancouver.
1. Lack of access to transportation is one of the major challenges people face as they age, and that has been identified by the United Way of the Lower Mainland  and BC’s Seniors Advocate  as a key factor contributing to seniors’ isolation and ill health.
2. If seniors become housebound, they are less likely to eat well, get regular exercise or get to medical appointments, and are more likely to become socially isolated from friends, family and the wider community. Research shows  that social connectedness is a key determinant of seniors’ health, slowing cognitive decline, the onset of dementia, and the progress of disability. Active, healthy seniors are also less likely to require more expensive health services like physician and hospital care.
3. Public transit is an issue that calls for intergenerational solidarity. Thehighest users of transit  in Metro Vancouver include those aged 18-29 and those aged 70-plus. Students and young people need dependable access to the more frequent and convenient services the transit plan proposes so they can get to school and work efficiently and safely. For the growing population of seniors who are living longer and independently, transit accessibility, comfort and convenience is paramount.
4. For vulnerable seniors—those with low incomes, recent immigrants, those with chronic health problems, and the frail elderly—a “yes” vote is especially critical. A “yes” vote will result in a thirty per cent increase in HandyDart rides, a twenty-five per cent increase in bus services, and a twenty per cent decrease of congestion on the roads. A twenty per cent decrease in traffic means that emergency vehicles will be able to get people in crisis to hospitals much faster. The proposed transit improvements will also benefit outlying areas that are currently underserved and where there are high concentrations of older adults with low average incomes—including Surrey, Langley, and Maple Ridge—and areas with high concentrations of recent immigrant seniors.
5. This referendum is not about a vote for or against Translink, the regional transportation authority, but is a vote for an overall strategic transportation plan to ensure regional accessibility and livability in the next thirty years. Funding will provide for transportation infrastructure (roads, traffic lights, light rail transit lines and trains) as well as services. Access, shelters, benches and lighting will be improved at bus stops, facilitating easier travel. As part of complete healthy communities, making the experience to and from transit use ensures seniors can engage in the community, stay active by walking, and continue being mobile throughout the city.
6. Metro Vancouver and its citizens have a major choice to make regarding how people will move around the region in the next thirty years. Voting “yes” on the referendum will benefit everyone, including seniors. With less vehicles and more transit, the region will be more accessible to all, with reduced pollution and less congested roads. It is a positive legacy for the next generation of people living in Metro Vancouver.
 United Way Seniors Vulnerability Report. United Way of the Lower Mainland. 2011.
 The Journey Begins: Together We Can Do Better. Office of the BC Seniors Advocate. October 2014.
 The Links Between Social Support and Improved Health Outcomes. Jolene Lansdowne. Vancouver Coastal Health. 2011.
 Transportation and Health in Metro Vancouver. My Health, My Community (Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, eHealth Strategy Office at the University of British Columbia). 2015.
 Figure 18 p. 39 and figure 3 p. 16 in: United Way Seniors Vulnerability Report. United Way of the Lower Mainland. 2011.
CBC News Posted: Mar 17, 2015 11:20 AM CT Last Updated: Mar 17, 2015 12:11 PM CT
The Manitoba government is promising to install fire sprinklers in all its hospitals, personal care homes and group home by 2025, with some of the work already starting this year.
Existing facilities that do not have sprinklers already will be retrofitted, the province announced Tuesday.
The upgrades are recommended in a provincial task force report that was prompted by a fatal fire at a seniors home in L’Isle-Verte, Que., in January 2014.
The sprinklers are expected to cost $125 million, but the government has only budgeted $70 million so far.
Erna Braun, the minister responsible for the Office of the Fire Commissioner, says the province will find the money in the budget.
Last year, CBC News found that more than half of the licensed personal care homes in Manitoba did not have full sprinkler systems installed. The majority of those homes were in rural communities.
As well, about one-third of hospitals in the province had no sprinkler systems.
Currently, 63 personal care homes in Manitoba have full sprinkler systems, while 25 have partial systems and 37 have none, a provincial government spokesperson said Tuesday.
As for hospitals, 27 have full sprinkler systems, 27 have partial systems and 22 have none.
The task force’s report makes six recommendations:
- Make sprinklers mandatory in new residential care facilities for children and adults.
- Make sprinklers mandatory in all existing treatment and care facilities.
- Make additional training available to local authorities.
- Ensure that local fire inspectors adopt a consistent approach to fire safety inspections.
- Raise public awareness about the importance of fire safety.
- Provide additional resources to the Office of the Fire Commissioner and local fire authorities to support fire protection planning, inspections and reporting.
The province says a $7-million project is already underway to install sprinklers in five personal care homes and one hospital this year. Another 18 facilities will get “other fire and life-safety improvements” this year, the government said in a news release.
The province says it will spend another $2 million to have fire safety experts assess all of Manitoba’s 125 personal care homes and 62 hospitals to “develop a comprehensive inventory of fire and life-safety systems and a 10-year plan for prioritizing facility upgrades.”
The government spokesperson said a full sprinkler system has been installed in a personal care home in Swan River, and plans are in the works for a facility in Flin Flon.
Sprinklers are also being installed at the hospital and personal care home in Eriksdale, at care homes in Birtle and Steinbach, and at the following health-care facilities:
- Snow Lake Health Centre — Installation of a sprinkler system.
- Steinbach – Bethesda Hospital — Completion of the sprinkler system.
- Victoria General Hospital — Phased installation of a sprinkler system.
- Altona Health Centre — Replacing the dry sprinkler system piping.
- Shoal Lake Health Centre — Replacing the dry sprinkler system piping.
You can read the fire safety task force’s report below