Lo­cal se­niors bend min­is­ter’s ear on is­sues

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity among top is­sues for elderly

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local - RICHARD HUTTON

While the in­stal­la­tion of a new floor may seem mun­dane, it has meant a world of dif­fer­ence to the le­gion in Ni­a­gara-on-theLake.

And mem­bers of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, Branch 124 were proud to show off the new floor to Filom­ena Tassi, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Min­is­ter for Se­niors, as she stopped in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake Fri­day as a part of her cross-Canada tour to hear from se­niors about is­sues they face.

Tassi was ac­com­pa­nied by St. Catharines MP Chris Bit­tle and Ni­a­gara Cen­tre MP Vance Badawey.

“The old floor used to be part car­pet, part rug and part li­noleum,” branch pres­i­dent Al Howse said. “Now it’s a beau­ti­ful floor so we can rent out the hall. It has helped us bring the branch to­gether.”

Hear­ing about what the floor re­place­ment, funded from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s New Hori­zons pro­gram, has meant to the le­gion was mu­sic to Tassi’s ears.

“One of the things about New Hori­zons that’s im­por­tant is to com­bat iso­la­tion, to get se­niors ac­tive and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for men­tor­ships,” Tassi said.

Bit­tle added: “To hear what this floor is do­ing, it’s an in­cred­i­ble space to get ac­tive, stay ac­tive and come to­gether.”

While hav­ing the new floor is nice, Howse said more needs to be done.

“Be­cause this is on the sec­ond floor, we’re go­ing to need an el­e­va­tor. Ac­ces­si­bil­ity is a great prob­lem we have here,” he said. “And for the com­mu­nity in gen­eral.”

Tassi said the gov­ern­ment holds a sim­i­lar view.

“We want places to be more ac­ces­si­ble. We re­al­ize there needs to be more en­gage­ment for se­niors.”

Since com­ing into power in 2015, the Trudeau Lib­er­als en­acted sev­eral mea­sures to help se­niors, Tassi said. Roll­backs in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion age for Old Age Pen­sion (OAP) and the Guar­an­teed In­come Sup­ple­ment (GIS) from 67 to 65 have helped pre­vent 100,000 se­niors from liv­ing be­low the poverty line.

An in­crease of the GIS to $947 has helped a fur­ther 57,000 peo­ple.

“Also, in our na­tional hous­ing strat­egy, se­niors will be in­cluded,” Tassi said.

That plan will see the gov­ern­ment in­vest $40 bil­lion over 10 years to ad­dress affordable hous­ing needs.

Some of the other con­cerns brought up at the meet­ing in­cluded pen­sions — par­tic­u­larly com­pa­nies not honour­ing their obli­ga­tions and health care.

On pen­sions, Tassi said the prob­lem is decades old and has no easy fix.

“We don’t want to see se­nior ex­ec­u­tives get­ting bonuses while pen­sions are re­duced,” she said. “There isn’t a quick fix for it. We need to con­sult with ex­perts and get sound ad­vice when we move for­ward.”

She added that im­prove­ments to the Canada Pen­sion Plan will pro­vide more in­come to se­niors in the fu­ture.

“The gov­ern­ment is for­ward think­ing,” she said.

Res­i­dent Ray Johns, mean­while, wanted to know the gov­ern­ment’s plans for health care.

“In this town, it isn’t great,” he said. “I just turned 65 and I am wait­ing to have some tests and it won’t be un­til Jan­uary. And I have to go to Hamil­ton to have them.”

Tassi said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is work­ing in part­ner­ship with the prov­inces, adding a meet­ing with On­tario Premier Doug Ford would hap­pen some­time in the fall.

RICHARD HUTTON METROLAND

Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Se­niors Filom­ena Tassi, left, and St. Catharines MP Chris Bit­tle lis­ten as Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, Branch 124 pres­i­dent Al Howse speaks at a round­table event.

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