Tassi outlines CARP’s role in developing policies for seniors
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