Ross Mayot reporting on a whirlwind trip to the Maritimes
As a national association it is very important for the National Office to stay in close touch our members throughout the country. We need to know the issues they are facing. Are the national advocacy priorities resonating in their region? Are they supported by members locally? Member feedback and suggestions help shape and advance our plans and strategies. So, Susan Eng and I undertook a five-city whirlwind tour of the Maritime Provinces 19-23 June.
Our objective was to meet with our Maritime Chapters (PEI, Moncton, Fredericton and Halifax (Nova Scotia Chapter), as well as community organizations, provincial politicians, government officials and the media, to get a better understanding of the needs and interests of our members in the Maritimes and to see how CARP’s key advocacy strategies line up with the policies and services for seniors in the Maritime provinces. The recent census pointed out that the Maritime provinces have the highest percentage of people 65+ in the country, with 15.7% in PEI, 16.2% in New Brunswick and 16.5% in Nova Scotia. (The national average is 14.8%) The data added to the poignancy of CARP’s mission in the Maritimes.
We started in Charlottetown with an appearance by Susan on CBC radio during which Susan talked about the role our members play in keeping politicians at all levels aware of the issues facing older Canadians. Media interest in CARP’s advocacy was high throughout the Maritimes. Susan’s various interviews during the trip on radio and television were broadcast throughout all three provinces.
Political meetings started in Charlottetown with back-to- back meetings with Ministers who hold key portfolios relating to seniors issues, including the Hon. Valerie Docherty, the Minister Responsible for Seniors; the Hon. Janice Sherry, the Minister of Justice and the Hon. Wesley Sheridan, Finance Minister. The objective for the meetings was to apprise the Ministers of CARP’s Advocacy priorities, which included the implications of the change in the age of eligibility for the OAS and GIS on provincial budgets; the continued need for pension reform to ensure that Canadians are saving sufficiently for their retirement; CARP’s position on aging in place and the need for integrated continuous care strategies, and the ongoing need for strategies to eliminate elder abuse. The Ministers expressed a keen interest in CARP’s work and were very appreciative of CARP’s advocacy for older Canadians at both the national and provincial levels. Finance Minister Sheridan supported CARP’s efforts to promote a national universal pension plan and indicated that he would be promoting the concept at the next meeting of Federal-Provncial Finance Ministers.
Ross Mayot, the Hon. Valerie Docherty, Minister Responsible for Seniors, Susan Eng
“It was a pleasure to meet with members of CARP and learn about CARP itself and what it does for all Canadians regardless of age”.
The Hon. Valerie Docherty, Minister Responsible for Seniors, Government of PEI.
“I’ve appreciated everything CARP stands for in regards to Pensions. My stance has been almost identical to what CARP has looked at over the last 5 years”.
The Hon. Wesley Sheridan, Minister of Finance, Government of Prince Edward Island
In Moncton we were fortunate to arrange a meeting with Cecile Cassista, the Executive Director of New Brunswick’s Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Homes Residents’ Rights. This was a very productive exchange on how CARP and the Coalition can support our mutual goals. As a national organization it is important to understand and support the efforts of a provincial organization like the Coalition and in turn CARP can help bring the Coalition’s provincial voice into the national advocacy.
Along with Louise Gilbert, the Chair of the Moncton Chapter, we had a very promising meeting with Conrad LeBlanc, the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation. Again, this meeting was an opportunity to learn about the work and goals of the Federation and to discuss how CARP and the Federation can collaborate and reinforce our respective efforts to advance the interests of our members and seniors in New Brunswick. We will be following up those meetings in the fall with the objective of developing more specific lines of communication and cooperation.
Ross Mayot, Louise Gilbert, Susan Eng and Conrad LeBlanc
In Halifax we had an opportunity to meet with the Leader of the Official Opposition in Nova Scotia prior to a meeting with officials from the Ministries of Finance, Health and Seniors. These meetings provided informative exchanges on the range of issues CARP is advancing, including discussion on the implications of the change in the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS on provincial budgets and CARP’s advocacy for continuous integrated care and elder abuse.
The political meetings provided valuable contextual information for the central reason for trip: to meet with our local members at Chapter meetings; stimulate awareness of CARP’s mission and to support the work of the Chapters. As one would expect the needs and interests in the three Maritime Provinces are not uniform, even though our members identified more commonalities than differences amongst the issues facing older Canadians in the provinces.
For example, in PEI, the implementation of the new HST is a very hot issue. New Brunswick chapter members were particularly concerned about the lack of a plan for catastrophic drug coverage. (New Brunswick and PEI are the only provinces in Canada without government plans). And in Halifax the Chapter members identified concerns about rising utility bills and the need for better rural and urban transportation, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. Concern about the broader national issues of pension reform, elder abuse, aging at home and the impact of the OAS changes on provincial budgets were common throughout the provinces.
On pension reform, Susan outlined CARP’s call for all provincial governments to support improvements to the Pooled Registered Pension Plans and CPP enhancement; the serious implications for provincial budgets resulting in the federal government’s changes to OAS eligibility and the need for more provincial resources to be allocated to eradicating elder abuse. It is CARP’s position that all levels of government have a responsibility to eradicate elder abuse. CARP called for and supports the recent federal measure to increase sentencing for elder abuse convictions as a major first step in concerted legislative and community action to protect vulnerable seniors from elder abuse.
In turn, I spoke at the Chapter meetings about the importance of having engaged members and the essential role Chapters play in advancing CARP’s advocacy and influence with politicians. The growth of our Chapter network is a powerful indication that our members are increasingly concerned about the issues facing an aging society, including emerging issues such as inter-generational dynamics and the environment, and are
While the pace was hectic over the four days, Susan and I gained new insights into the issues facing seniors in the Maritimes; saw opportunities for collaboration with other groups; were impressed with the growing level of awareness and support for CARP’s mission; and were excited about the number of people who are stepping up to help the Chapters become an even greater force in their communities.
Susan speaking at a full house in Halifax, NS