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NEW Federal Seniors Department – Its Mission and Mandate are Clear and Broad

By Laurèl Craib-Laurin

This past July saw the creation of the federal Seniors Department, which was formalized by a much-anticipated cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Strangely, there has not been much buzz around this new ministry other than it is widely recognized to be part of the 2019 re-election launch by the federal Liberals. The creation of the Seniors Department was not part of the Liberal 2015 platform. Rather, this was a motion that was carried on the floor of the Liberal Convention in April 2018 in Halifax, with implementation expected after the 2019 election.

The Honorable Filomena Tassi, the new Minister for Seniors, is new to the cabinet table. Her portfolio is one of five new ones in the cabinet of 35. The other additions are Small Business and Export Promotion, lead by the Honourable Mary Ng, Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Heritage and Multiculturalism, and Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Tassi will help the government "better understand the needs of Canadian seniors and ensure that programs and services are developed that respond to Canada's aging population."

The Prime Minister’s mandate letter, issued a month after the appointment, stipulated that as Minister of Seniors, her goal will be to help the government better understand and make decisions on the needs of Canadian seniors and ensure that programs and services are developed that respond to Canada’s aging population. The foundation of her mandate is to provide Canadian seniors and future retirees greater security and a better quality of life, by working within Employment and Social Development Canada on seniors programming, including the New Horizons for Seniors Program and benefiting from the work of the National Seniors Council. Minister Tassi is further expected to support work across the federal government with colleagues on initiatives that impact seniors, such as the Ministers of Finance and Innovation, Science and Economic Development on the design and implementation of initiatives in order to better protect consumers, particularly seniors, from high-pressure sales tactics, overbilling, fraud and other potential harms in dealing with financial institutions and telecommunications companies.

Minister Tassi is also being asked to work with the Ministers of Finance and Families, Children and Social Development in order to bring forward options to improve financial security for Canada’s seniors and those most in need. There will be an initial focus on the federal government’s commitments to index Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments to a new Seniors Price Index, and work with provinces and territories to ensure adequate and coordinated support programs to address seniors’ poverty.

Minister Tassi will also be expected to consult with stakeholders and coordinate the government’s work to strengthen the protection of workplace pensions, working jointly with the Ministers of Finance, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Some of her other responsibilities will include:

  • Working with the Ministers of Health and Families, Children and Social Development on initiatives to promote healthy aging.

  • Working with the Minister of Health to engage with stakeholders and parliamentarians on ways to address dementia.

  • Leading work with the support of the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Finance to address crimes that target seniors including elder abuse and online financial scams.

  • Collaborating with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to ensure seniors’ housing needs are reflected in the implementation of the National Housing Strategy.

  • Representing the Government of Canada at the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum.

  • Supporting the Ministers of Finance and Health in the consideration of options for how best to move forward with the implementation of national pharmacare.

This government will want to move quickly on several deliverables, working up to the 2019 federal election.  In fact, it would not be surprising to expect several announcements on October 1, National Seniors Day.

 

Seniors Department Quick Facts 

Source: Seniors Department website.  Click HERE to read the full Mandate letter

  • The Government of Canada is committed to supporting and promoting seniors’ health, well-being and contributions by encouraging them to stay active, engaged and informed.

  • The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) supports the Government of Canada’s overarching social goals to enhance the quality of life and promote the full participation of all individuals, including seniors, in all aspects of Canadian society, by supporting initiatives that engage seniors and address seniors’ issues.

  • The NHSP supports projects led or inspired by seniors that make a difference in the lives of others and their communities.

  • The NHSP provides funding to organizations that help ensure seniors can benefit from, and contribute to, the quality of life in their communities through active living and participation in social activities.

  • The NHSP fosters social inclusion and the engagement of seniors by encouraging them to stay active, engaged and informed through projects led or inspired by seniors that make a difference in the lives of others and their communities.

  • Since 2004, the NHSP has approved close to 21,600 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada, with a total Government of Canada investment of approximately $452.5 million.

 

Minister for Seniors: The Honourable Filomena Tassi, MP

The Honourable Filomena Tassi is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas, and served as Deputy Government Whip from 2017 until 2018, when she was appointed Minister of Seniors. She has served as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business and as a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. She is an Executive Member of the Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Minister Tassi has been the voice of change for families in Hamilton through a lifetime of commitment to her community. She has served as Catholic School Trustee and ran for the provincial Liberals in 1995.

Minister Tassi obtained her Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario in 1986. She also completed her Masters of Religious Education at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, in 2004. Minister Tassi practiced law for six years before taking some time to raise her children. She later became a high school chaplain for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. As chaplaincy leader, Minister Tassi helped establish the DREAMS (Dominican Republic Education and Medical Support) program which has enabled thousands of students to travel to live and work with the materially poor in the Dominican Republic. She led many fundraising initiatives to pay for the building of hundreds of homes in the region of San José de Ocoa, Dominican Republic. Minister Tassi also co-founded CLIP (Catholic Leadership Interdisciplinary Program) which is a full semester, experiential learning program, currently offered by the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

Driven by her profound sense of civic duty, Minister Tassi has been highly involved in her community. She is a past board member of both St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Catholic Youth Organization, and has volunteered her time with many local initiatives and organizations. Minister Tassi is the recipient of the Philosophy Award, University of Waterloo (1983), Hamilton Catholic Director’s Award of Excellence (2002), Brian Halferty Chaplaincy Award (2010) and the Fr. Norm Choate Distinguished Graduate Award (2010). She has co-authored three books: 500 Prayers (Twenty-Third Publications, 2004) , Greatness In Our Teenagers (Paulist Press, 2009), and 365 Prayers (Twenty-Third Publications, 2016)

 

What is the National Seniors Council?

National Seniors Council was also established by the Prime Minister. Its goals and mandate are to engage with seniors, stakeholders and experts to provide advice to the Government of Canada on current and emerging issues and opportunities related to the health, well-being and quality of life of seniors. The Council produces reports and publications based on their findings.

 

Laurèl Craib-Laurin is a veteran of the Ottawa political scene.  In addition to her work representing various professionals on the association front she teaches political science at Algonquin College.  Laurel is also an active volunteer with Ottawa Music Festivals.  You can find Laurèl on LinkedIn HERE

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