Tassi out­lines CARP’s role in de­vel­op­ing poli­cies for se­niors

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Meet Canada’s new min­is­ter of se­niors

IN A FOL­LOW-UP in­ter­view, Zoomer spoke to newly ap­pointed Min­is­ter of Se­niors Filom­ena Tassi (MP–Hamil­ton West-An­caster-Dun­das) in P.E.I. where she and Trudeau were meet­ing Cana­di­ans for the first time in her new role.

Peter Mug­geridge Can you tell us a lit­tle bit about your life away from pol­i­tics?

Filom­ena Tassi I’m the mother of two amaz­ing chil­dren (24 and 22 years old) whom I’m very proud of. I’m the wife of an ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic hus­band who has sup­ported me all the way. With­out him, I wouldn’t be here to­day.

PM Was there an event or per­son in your life that in­flu­enced you to en­ter pol­i­tics?

FT My mother. She ex­posed all four of her chil­dren to pol­i­tics from the time we were young. She ran a con­stituency of­fice for a fed­eral cabi­net min­is­ter. Whether it was mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial or fed­eral pol­i­tics, I was in­volved from the time I was a young girl. I was knock­ing on doors by the time I was 10 years old. And you know what? I loved it. But I never saw my­self as a politi­cian. But I ran for the Catholic school board in my area and I won. And then, in the 1995 On­tario pro­vin­cial elec­tion,

I was ap­proached to run for Hamil­ton Cen­tre. I won the nom­i­na­tion and, at the same time, found my­self preg­nant. So I asked my hus­band: “What now?” He said: “You know what, honey, you run and, if you win, I’ll stay home and raise the fam­ily.” I lost that elec­tion and de­cided to leave law and be­come a chap­lain, which pro­vided me with a chal­lenge, al­lowed me to raise my fam­ily and also be­cause faith was a very im­por­tant part of my life. I did that for 20 years and then was in­vited to run fed­er­ally in the last elec­tion. And here I am.

PM CARP feels your ap­point­ment gives se­niors a strong voice in the fed­eral cabi­net. How will you en­sure se­niors’ is­sues fil­ter up into pos­i­tive leg­isla­tive and pol­icy change?

FT I see my­self as the voice of se­niors at the ta­ble. So it’s im­por­tant for me in be­ing that voice that I rec­og­nize what the chal­lenges are. And I think those will come from the se­niors them­selves but also the fam­i­lies that sup­port se­niors and then those or­ga­ni­za­tions that work to sup­port se­niors. By lis­ten­ing to each of these groups, by hear­ing the chal­lenges, as well as ideas and sug­ges­tions is go­ing to put us in a bet­ter place to de­cide how we will move for­ward to give se­niors the se­cu­rity and the abil­ity to look for­ward to aging.

PM Like many Cana­di­ans, I imag­ine you’ve had your own care­giv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

FT My mother over the past cou­ple of years has been fac­ing the chal­lenges of aging. We’ve had the is­sues of falls and bro­ken bones. Walk­ing the jour­ney of aging with some­one reaches you in the very depth of your be­ing.

PM CARP feels your new role is crit­i­cal be­cause it cre­ates a co-or­di­nated depart­ment that re­sponds to the cur­rent needs of se­niors. What’s your vi­sion for the min­istry?

FT I’m go­ing into this with an open mind into hear­ing what se­niors, their care­givers and or­ga­ni­za­tions are pri­or­i­ties. The prime min­is­ter has men­tioned all the things we’ve de­liv­ered on. I’ll build on those ... [by fo­cus­ing on] re­tire­ment se­cu­rity, af­ford­able hous­ing, se­niors’ iso­la­tion, el­der abuse, home care and ac­cess to health care.

PM What role do you see a group like CARP play­ing?

FT I’ll meet them one on one. I’ll be mak­ing calls and hav­ing face-to-face meet­ings in or­der to lis­ten to their ideas and re­ceive their in­put.

PM CARP has started a Stand Up Straight cam­paign that en­cour­ages mem­bers to get off the couch and get phys­i­cally fit. Does this seem like an idea a se­niors min­is­ter could get be­hind?

FT Not only se­niors but ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from ex­er­cise. Years ago, some­one sug­gested to me I should try yoga, meditation and mind­ful­ness. I said: “Are you crazy? Do you know the kind of per­son I am? I’m in­tense – Type A.” I tried it and I loved it. Se­niors could ab­so­lutely ben­e­fit from [CARP’s cam­paign]. Just as young peo­ple can. Stay­ing fit is so im­por­tant to help me do this job bet­ter. I have to be at the top of my game.

PM With a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of se­niors and a ded­i­cated min­istry for se­niors, you have a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity to leave a last­ing legacy. How do you feel about that re­spon­si­bil­ity?

FT I’m very aware of it. It’s why I re­fer to it as a real hon­our, and I know that the job I have ahead of me is an ex­tremely im­por­tant one. And I am go­ing to work as hard as I can to get this right. And I think work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with oth­ers is go­ing to make this work.

PM Have you thought of life af­ter pol­i­tics?

FT No, I haven’t. I’m fo­cused on the mis­sion I have ahead of me. I am fully im­mersed in it. I love chal­lenges. And I be­lieve in our se­niors who have been great con­trib­u­tors to so­ci­ety – the back­bone of our com­mu­ni­ties – and we need to get this right for them.

Cel­e­brat­ing vic­tory on elec­tion night, Oc­to­ber 2015

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