Winter 2023 message from your president

December 01, 2023
Roy Goodall, Federal Retirees president.
In his president’s message, Association president Roy Goodall offers an overview of an undeniably stressful autumn and what the Association has been up to.

As many of you know, Association staff, board members and volunteers have been consumed by the issues involved in the transition of the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) plan from Sun Life to Canada Life since July 1. 

In early August last year, the partners met to formally sign the renewal agreement. There was hope and confidence in what was to come. It is disappointing that a year later we are reviewing the significant shortcomings with the implementation of the new agreement. 

We appreciate that this was a big undertaking and we know that the teams at Canada Life and Treasury Board share our members’ frustrations. As well, there have been some good outcomes, thanks to Manon LeBlanc and Katrina Daigneault at the Administrative Authority, who have worked hard to resolve heartbreaking member issues. Our national office employees have, too, though their ability to help is limited because they’re powerless to change things directly. In addition, Treasury Board has been responsive to our pleas to address system failures. 

I also appreciate that former Treasury Board president Mona Fortier extended the physiotherapy benefit in the plan, though we are still working through the finer points of that. To that end, our suggestions have been (1) to implement a legacy clause for retirees who were using physiotherapy before July 1, 2023; (2) to implement a physiotherapy application and assessment process for those applying for reimbursement in excess of the plan limit, and (3) to revisit physiotherapy benefits at the PSHCP review period. 

On the switchover as a whole, many of our 170,000 members did have a seamless transition, but that’s not helpful to hear if you’re one of the few thousand who are experiencing problems with enrolment, claim disbursement and claim rejections for prescriptions. The transition problems have been exacerbated by under-resourcing of the Canada Life call centre and its inability to address the call volume associated with so many new files. 

For those who’ve identified incomplete or incorrect member data at Canada Life, we are told these are system transfer issues that should have been resolved by the time you are reading this message. There have also been delays in processing paper enrolments, which is how many of our members prefer to communicate. We are also hearing from members who had submitted claim adjudication forms to Sun Life and are now being asked for the same information from Canada Life because it wasn’t properly transferred and they can’t reach a Canada Life agent to sort it out. 

This has been a frustrating and all-consuming issue for Federal Retirees, which has been a good partner throughout this process. We have shared feedback and advice and supported members, but we don’t have an official role in this transition process as the contract is between Canada Life and the federal government. And although we’ve added two full-time employees on a contract basis simply to help with this, our few staff members have been frustrated by their inability to do more than refer members to Canada Life, which does not respond to their calls in a timely fashion. 

I have forwarded a number of suggestions to Canada Life, including the idea that it implement a call-back system so instead of waiting on hold, people can opt for a returned call. The system should also tell people approximately how soon they’ll receive that call. We’ve also suggested Canada Life consider setting up a special help desk to assist members with unusual or complex issues. In addition, email queries should be acknowledged with an auto-response promising a comprehensive answer within a reasonable number of days. Finally, I’ve asked that Canada Life quit trying to convince those who want paper forms and the ability to file claims by paper to switch to electronic processing. It only serves to anger our members. 

All that to say, it’s been a busy and stressful autumn, but I’m hoping for better times ahead and I wish you all a happy holiday season.


A president’s message appears in each quarterly issue of Sage magazine. You can read the latest issue of Sage, along with all back issues, online.