Options Newsletter: Winter 2013

Report of President Gaskell
Gaskell-ThomasIn talking with Editor JoAnn I agreed to do an article for Options. However, my article evolved into a small “rant” for, about the same time, I had just finished reading The Company Store by John Mellor, and Rick Mercer’s A Nation worth Ranting About. Nothing in either book was very reassuring as we attempt to influence our lawmakers to take action that would improve the lot of seniors in Canada. Reading of the struggles of mine workers in Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia, and the numerous times miners put their trust in governments, and then were let down, one must marvel at their resilience. Rick Mercer spends a considerable part of his book “ranting” about the Prime Minister’s disregard for advice or guidance – not only from groups or individuals, but from even his own government members.

While we attempt to influence government, I am acutely aware that of all the correspondence we have worked at providing, only one has been acknowledged with a form letter – that being with regards to CETA (the Comprehensive Trade Agreement). Do we stop? Are we to acquiesce?

George Georget sent me an article from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix by Bruce Johnstone, “Prof says lobby groups, MPs almost powerless”. It certainly causes us to examine our strategies as we go forward. Johnstone quotes Prof. Jim Varney as saying, “MPs don’t have a lot of freedom to advocate for policy on behalf of their constituents, or go against the government line.” Then, what should be our direction?

Vice President Ed Zegray is currently attempting to assess information on our effectiveness across the country. While we may not be certain of the most effective actions, we do know that continued action is necessary. The millions, and indeed billions, that have been spent on overpriced drugs, an inefficiently run health system that sees us pay more for much less, changes in pension plans that affect thousands, etc., etc., are matters that cannot be left unchallenged.

Terry Fallis in The Best Laid Plans describes his lead character’s feelings after five years as a government speechwriter: “I arrived . . . naive, innocent and, excited . . . I left embittered, exhausted and ineffably sad.” While we continue our efforts to bring about positive change, I am not embittered. I also hope that in that, I am not naive or innocent. Will the likes of a J. S. Woodsworth, the long ago MP from Manitoba, stand in the House and raise the issues we present to them? I am hopeful that we can make a difference and that our efforts will bear fruit. That is why I close with the title of Mercer’s book: we do it because we live in “A Nation Worth Ranting About.”

Organizational Change
A number of constitutional changes, directed by the 2012 AGM, have been submitted to Industry Canada for acceptance.  Essentially, these are that the position of vice-president be filled by election rather than by selection from amongst regional representatives; that there be a change from four to three ACER-CART regions, with representatives from Regions West, Ontario, and East; and that QPARSE and QART join Region East. At this time, we are waiting approval of some of those changes.

2012 – 2013 Directors Update
Since the 2012 AGM, there have been some new Director appointments to the ACER-CART Board by member organizations. Leo Normandeau is the new RTO/ERO (Ontario) President and Director; Jim Kavanaugh is the President/Director for Nova Scotia’s RTO of the NSTU; and Thomas Kendell is the new President/Director for RTANL (Newfoundland and Labrador).

2012 AGM Action Taken
Work by the Executive and Standing Committees in addressing the motions adopted at the 2012 AGM is in progress, and in some cases, completed. A number of the AGM motions were adopted in recognition that health service providers are falling short in meeting the core principles of the Canada Health Act (1984) and that some needful services are not covered by the principles at all. Seniors are affected by these shortcomings.

To add force to ACER-CART efforts to lobby government to address these inadequacies, a number of the 2012 AGM resolutions requested that member organizations support ACER-CART’s efforts by contacting their federal MPs by phone, letter, email, or visit.

Member organizations were asked to consider joining ACER-CART in advocating for the following:

  • establishment of a National Medicare Oversight Council;
  • action by the federal government to make the transfer of health care funds contingent upon the assurances by recipients that the funds are used to support the provisions of the Canada Health Act;
  • collaboration between the federal and provincial governments on the development of a national pharmacare program and a comprehensive national pharmaceutical formulary;
  • development and implementation of a recycling program for unused pharmaceuticals;
  • assurance by the federal government of an adequate supply of all necessary pharmaceuticals, diagnostic materials and injectable drugs, including vaccines;
  • establishment of a national organ and tissue donor registry;
  • establishment of a continuing care program with enforceable standards of care, provided at reasonable cost, and with appropriate recognition of caregivers’ needs; and
  • provision of adequate mental health services in community and appropriate facilities.

In addition to sending letters to appropriate elected officials addressing the motions above, President Thomas Gaskell communicated the following ACER-CART views to government: opposition to raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security; opposition to the potentially negative impacts on Canada as they relate to the Comprehensive Trade Agreement; the desire for an ACER-CART-Government consultative relationship prior to any future amendments to Federal pension programs; and a recommendation that pension benefits be enhanced.

Committee Reports
ACER-CART committees strive to serve members, to address their needs, to advocate for ways in which the lives of seniors may be bettered, and to publicize the positions proposed by the national organization. Although executive members do not meet face to face during the year, their work continues.  Two separate conference calls on October 12, 2012 and February 20, 2013 provided an opportunity for the committees to report on their work to the executive.

Pension and Retirement Income Committee: James MacAulay, Chair
The committee is collecting information about the pension plans of member organizations, comparing COLA arrangements, and monitoring opposition to public sector pensions and defined benefit pension plans. Gerry Tiede (BCRTA) and James MacAulay will deliver a pensions information session at the Pre-AGM meeting on May 30, 2013.

Communications Committee: JoAnn Lauber, Chair; Vaughn Wadelius, Webmaster
To keep members apprised of events, activities, and decisions of ACER-CART, two editions of Options had been planned, one published in July, following the 2012 AGM, and another to follow the February 2013 Executive Conference Call. The website continues to be a rich source of current information about the national organization and about its history. Member organizations are encouraged to submit material for the Members Section of the website; and delegates, in preparation for the AGM on May 31 and June 1, 2013, and are directed to the website for access to pertinent reports and documents.

Health Services and Insurance Committee: Brian Kenny, Chair
The committee chair is sharing health-related documents originating with Johnson, RTO/ERO, and the Canadian HealthcareNetwork.ca. Atrial Fibrillation, Canadian Stroke Drug, the Effects of High Vitamin Doses, and links related to healthy aging are among them. Some of these are posted on the ACER-CART website and others may be obtained by contacting Brian at bnkenny@gmail.com.

Political Advocacy Committee: Ed Zegray, Chair
An ad hoc Political Advocacy Committee was formed for 2012 – 2013. Letters are often the only means by which ACER-CART advocacy can occur, particularly given the organization’s limited financial resources. However, face-to-face meetings are a more effective strategy and are to be encouraged, particularly on the part of representatives in member associations through meetings with elected officials who represent their areas, and with whom they are often familiar. Ed Zegray has constructed a survey whereby member organizations are asked to describe their advocacy efforts and the degree to which they have been successful. It is intended that these will be shared.

Other News

  • The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has ascertained that the ACER-CART trademark (see it at the top of this page) has been registered and approved for publishing in the Trade Marks Journal. The trademark is renewable every 15 years.
  •  The Canadian International Conference on Elder Law was held in Vancouver on November 15–17. JoAnn Lauber, Region West Rep, attended on behalf of ACER-CART. A synopsis of that conference is posted on the ACER-CART website.
  • The Congress of National Seniors Organizations (CNSO), for various reasons, has dissolved. Fees paid by ACER-CART for the two years 2010 – 2012 are to be refunded.
  • In preparation for discussion at the 2013 AGM, Past President Vaughn Wadelius has reviewed ACER-CART policy regarding the Reserve Fund; and he has prepared a paper that outlines standards for reserve funds of volunteer organizations and recommends action in relation to the Association’s fund.
  • In accordance with a 2012 AGM motion, Executive Director Roger Regimbal has prepared a draft 2013-14 budget for consideration at the 2013 AGM. A grant from Johnson along with an adjusted fee structure instituted by the 2012 AGM will result in increased revenues, potentially allowing for a small surplus.

Regional News

Region East
: James MacAulay, Representative

In October 2012, representatives of Quebec, NB, NS, NFL, and PEI met in Moncton to discuss issues of common interest: advocacy strategies, health care, insurance and pensions. The conference was a huge success.  Plans for the future include a Regional Conference in Nova Scotia in 2014 and another in Newfoundland in 2016.

Region Ontario: Brian Kenny, Representative

RTO/ERO is a busy and vital organization serving 68,000 retirees and another 53,000 in the health plans. Their many and diverse activities have included the October Senate, election of officers, charity work, establishment of a chair in Geriatric Medicine, support and mentorship of their benefit and pension plans, and attention to the many issues that touch their members. RTO/ERO reports that according to their pension plan actuaries, the average teacher lives 30 years beyond retirement. The average age of the retired Ontario teacher is 72.

Region West: JoAnn Lauber, Representative

ACER-CART representatives from the Yukon, BC, AB, SK, and MB all met in Vancouver during the BC Annual General Meeting in September 2012. In their first ever face-to-face meeting, and a successful one it was!  The ACER-CART West directors discussed issues of common interest, and shared advocacy strategies. Past President Vaughn Wadelius addressed the BCRTA assembly on the brilliant topic of ACER-CART!

2013 AGM (May 31 to June 1) Deadlines
Nominations are being accepted for the 2013-14 positions of President, Vice-President, and Regional Representatives (East, Ontario, West). Nominating forms are available on ACER-CART’s website, and should be returned before April 20 to Executive Director Roger Regimbal, with a CV of the nominee. Member reports are also due by April 20. The April deadline date is to ensure that AGM documents are sent out to the delegates well in advance of the AGM. The format of the member organization report is available on the main page of this website. Reports and CVs in both official languages are requested.