Federal Retirees’ CEO, Simon Coakeley, addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities by videoconference on May 25.
On May 25, Federal Retirees President Jean-Guy Soulière and CEO Simon Coakeley appeared as witnesses before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, to assist with the Committee’s study on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soulière opened with a message of thanks to Canada’s public servants, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP, for the important role they have played in Canada’s response to COVID-19 – from rolling out essential programs and funding to providing hands-on support in long term care facilities.
Focusing his remarks on retirement security, Soulière highlighted positive actions taken to date by the federal government – including quick action to help older Canadians manage their Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) during the economic slowdown, direct financial support to individuals through the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and concrete steps to protect pensions by addressing solvency funding for 2020 and adding pension protection measures under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility, or LEEFF.
“There is of course room for improvement,” said Soulière. “This includes communication and information to older Canadians, which has at times been slow and inconsistent”. Soulière went on to highlight the importance of turning attention to older adults who are falling through the cracks of some COVID-19 financial programs, and to the longer-term retirement security challenges Canadians will face as we enter the management and recovery phases of the pandemic.”
Federal Retirees’ president, Jean-Guy Soulière, opened with a message of thanks to Canadian public servants in his remarks before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
"Thoughtful and intentional planning by the federal government, with provincial and territorial collaboration, is essential for Canadians’ longer-term retirement security,” said Soulière. “Now is the time to start planning for the retirement security system we want to have – in two years, five years, ten years and beyond.”
Coakeley’s time to speak was cut short, but member of Parliament and committee member Stephanie Kusie (Calgary Midnapore) graciously ceded a portion of her time to allow Coakeley to complete his remarks, which focused on health care challenges during COVID-19 from the perspective of Federal Retirees members and older adults.
“The consequences we have seen in many health care settings, particularly long-term care, are tragically unsurprising to the seniors organizations and advocates who have sounded the alarm on the state of seniors care in Canada for some years now,” said Coakeley. A report released in early May by the International Long-Term Care Policy Network indicates that among 14 countries, Canada had the highest proportion of deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care settings – despite having lower fatalities overall compared to other countries included in the study.
Seniors advocates, including Federal Retirees, have called for variations of the same thing: a national review of long-term care in Canada, with a goal of ensuring Canadians in these facilities receive the care and dignity they need and deserve.
As with any discussion on health care, the inevitable question of jurisdiction came up, because health care delivery is a provincial responsibility.
But COVID-19 has exposed what Coakeley characterized as a national issue. “A significant, vulnerable proportion of our population has been seriously impacted by systemic failures,” said Coakeley. “I think we can all appreciate that difficult subjects must be faced head-on – collaboratively and intentionally, with the participation of all levels of government.”
Fellow witness Dr. Samir Sinha and Coakeley agreed that there are opportunities for all levels of government to better cooperate to address long-standing issues with the continuum of care as well as standards and quality of care, and that we are at a point where Canada must come to grips with flaws in health and seniors care, determine Canadians’ shared goal for seniors care and put in the hard work to make progress toward it.
Soulière and Coakeley appeared as witnesses along with Dr. Samir Sinha and Michael Nicin with the National Institute on Ageing, and with Gisèle Tassé-Goodman and Danis Prud’homme with the Reseau FADOQ.
On many key issues, the views and principles shared by each organization aligned with Federal Retirees priorities – signalling a strong, consistent message from seniors advocates that the federal government should take seriously, both as the pandemic rolls on and as we plan for recovery.