Evidence of meeting #34 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was pandemic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Laura Tamblyn Watts  President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge
Miranda Ferrier  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Support Workers Association
Alex Mihailidis  Scientific Director, AGE-WELL
Samir Sinha  Director, Health Policy Research, National Institute on Ageing

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Long.

Ms. Chabot, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to talk about the financial security of seniors and the direct assistance that they'll need.

Ms. Ferrier, you commented on the federal budget in terms of the increase in the old age security pension. You know that, in Canada, people are eligible for the old age security pension as of the age of 65, regardless of their previous status. That's good.

What do you think about the government's proposal to increase the old age security pension only for seniors aged 75 and over, and only in 2022? Don't you think that this should apply to seniors aged 65 and over?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Support Workers Association

Miranda Ferrier

I'm going to have to agree. I do agree that it should start at 65. I have parents who heavily rely upon that.

I think we need to look not just at that. We need to look at what else we can give to seniors. Many seniors struggle with paying for their food. They struggle with paying their rent. They don't have a place to live. They move back in with family. I think we're going to see more struggles if that age is moved up.

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Ms. Tamblyn Watts, what do you think?

4:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Thank you, Ms. Chabot.

We were pleased to see the increase at 75. It was a very long time coming. We think these increases should be broadly brought up to standards with regard to seniors' poverty, and that there needs to be support for those most in need, so a differentiation between what everybody gets and what those who are particularly in need get.

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Do I have any time left, Mr. Chair?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

You have 30 seconds left for a brief comment.

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

I'll make one final comment. I'm trying to understand how the financial vulnerability of seniors is different depending on whether they're 65 or 75.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Ms. Chabot.

We will go to Ms. Gazan for two and a half minutes.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you so much.

I want to thank Laura and Miranda for speaking about the importance of independence and having the choice to stay at home. I think everybody on this committee would agree that people value their independence, and that when they get to that point in life they would like the option of choosing between long-term care and home. I say that, as well, for members of the disabled community, who should also be granted those life options.

During the second wave, we saw devastating levels of infection and death in long-term care homes, notably in for-profit care homes. In fact, we know, as you know, that 80% of the COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been attributed to long-term care homes. We knew we had problems before the pandemic; we just didn't deal with them. If we had, this wouldn't have happened. I'm just putting that out there. This is not a new problem.

We also saw in long-term care homes that the worst outbreaks were, more often than not, in for-profit care homes. We know that.

My question is for either one of you. Can you speak about why it is important to take profit out of long-term care and how doing that would result, in fact, in better care for seniors across the country and better treatment of workers as well?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Support Workers Association

Miranda Ferrier

I don't know if I'm going to give you the answer you want to hear, but I can answer this quite quickly.

Having worked in both for-profit and not-for-profit homes and representing personal support workers in both sectors across our nation, I have to say that both sides have issues. Yes, the for-profit homes definitely had more infections—massively more infections—than the not-for-profit ones did. When it comes to the treatment of staff, when it comes to the treatment of residents, we see issues on both sides of the coin. However, when you talk about supplies, whether they be incontinence products, extra time, extra outings, etc., not-for-profit is the winner of that one.

I think we need to pick good parts from both sides, and then we'll know exactly what we need to do in order to fix our system.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

I'll pick up on that, and I appreciate your feedback.

You've indicated there have been issues on both sides, but I would say we have an issue with how we treat seniors in the country, period, on all fronts. Would you agree that this makes it even more critical to put in place national standards and very clear regulations for long-term care homes to ensure that seniors are provided with adequate care?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Support Workers Association

Miranda Ferrier

Yes, I agree.

I can hand it over to Laura.

4:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts

I agree as well. In 1987, when we created the Canada Health Act, we only lived until 76.4 years old. We didn't really have long-term care. If we had designed it thinking forward and if we had a seniors advocate telling us we needed to be thinking about these things, we would never have done anything but not-for-profit care. It would have been part of our health act.

We are not there. Fifty per cent of our long-term care is being provided privately, and I don't see a pragmatic way of easily undoing that while trying to meet the needs of a growing and less able population at the end of life. National standards are going to be critical for making sure that we no longer have the problems we have had.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you.

Go ahead, Mr. Tochor, for five minutes.

May 13th, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Thank you very much.

Let's go back a bit. You touched on some of the pressures that seniors are facing, especially with inflation. Unfortunately, everything is costing more and everyone is bracing for what will come after the pandemic, which I fear will put more strain on seniors and our loved ones.

Along that vein of hopefully finding efficiencies within our provision of care, I thought of one of the ideas that came in your written submission for budget 2021. You proposed to create a toll-free national 1-800 line that would help seniors get care and unfortunately bring to light some of the abuses that are taking place out there. It got me thinking about how we make the system more efficient for seniors. Maybe if we could get seniors in contact with people whose role it is to help, we could have better outcomes.

I'd like you to unpack a bit more the idea of a 1-800 number for supports. I can follow up with a second question later, but could it piggyback on the 211 system, which gives citizens access to information on where to find help?

4:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts

The 1-800 number is a simple solution, and it's already being run by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. That existing resource could have its mandate expanded. In fact, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has been quite open to this conversation for some time.

People call when they need to know who to turn to, and there is expertise in each province and territory. If they call from Shediac, they need to know what's happening in New Brunswick. If they call from Kamloops, they need to know what's happening in British Columbia. The systems and frameworks across the country are so diverse, and people are desperate to find regional resources.

We're not suggesting that the federal government do all these things, but a basic 1-800 line staffed with people who can help with navigation would make a huge difference. This has been tried in other jurisdictions, such as Australia, New Zealand and even the United States, and has been a very simple and effective tool. It's not going to solve everything, but it can take some of the desperation away.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Absolutely.

Just to unpack this a bit more, Laura, you talked about Stanley, who got in contact with you. Was it through one of these support lines? How did that conversation reach you?

4:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Stanley called us at CanAge. Our phone numbers are available and our email is available.

We have people reaching out to all kinds of services, and 211 is a good service. It's being rolled out across the country now, but it works better in some places than in others. It is another type of resource that can be helpful, but people need to be trained on it because it is for information and referral.

I'll use an example that comes from Ontario. When calls about elder abuse and neglect hit 211, it was flooded, but 211 doesn't have training on this. People were then handed over to the senior safety line. To give you a sense of this, the senior safety line was getting 800 calls every three days during COVID-19, with an 85% drop rate. That means only 15% of the calls were getting through. This was 24 hours a day. Therefore, 211 is a way in, but calls have to go to someone specialized.

We think that 211 and other supports are important points, but a national response line for seniors' inquires, which could be staffed by Service Canada or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, or could be an analogous line with expert resources to help, would be a really useful tool.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Speaking of fraud, I have a couple of questions on how we can reduce it. One proposal was to have a trusted adviser that banks would have to ask for. Along those lines, I brought up some other questions about some of the financial abuse and fraud that unfortunately takes place with other trusted individuals. How would we protect against an effort to reduce fraud that could actually make it more common?

4:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

Laura Tamblyn Watts

One of the key things that can be done by the federal government is to fix the poor wording in subsection 7(3) of PIPEDA, which makes the reporting of financial abuse very, very challenging. Again, if the committee likes, I can provide additional information.

The CSA, IIROC, MFDA and the Canadian Bankers Association are all moving to install trusted contact people as part of the “know your client” principles. That is a good and useful way that the regulatory system is moving forward. What the federal government needs to do is tweak the language in PIPEDA. We've made submissions. It's a very easy fix that would allow reporting to be much more effective for financial institutions.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Absolutely. Could you submit that to the committee?

Thank you again for your submission, and thank you for your public service in helping seniors.

4:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, CanAge

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Tochor.

This is the last question round for this panel.

Mr. Lauzon, you have the floor for five minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Lauzon Liberal Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank Ms. Tamblyn Watts and Ms. Ferrier for being here today and for their testimony, which is very important to this committee.

Ms. Tamblyn Watts, you piqued my interest earlier when you spoke about the importance of organizations that could help seniors.

You know that we invested an additional $20 million in the new horizons for seniors program to establish projects to help seniors. We also budgeted $350 million for non-profit charitable organizations during the pandemic. Moreover, we allocated $109 million to the United Way of Canada, and we gave millions of dollars to food banks.

Do you think that we took the right steps?

What other steps could we take to help Canadian seniors through organizations?