That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that seniors, namely Canadians aged 65 or older, make up a demographic that requires ongoing attention from the government as the proportion of seniors relative to the Canadian population continues to grow (15% in 2015, 25% by 2035); (b) point out that it is working hard to help improve the lives of seniors, from restoring the age of eligibility for Old Age Security, to increasing the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors, to increasing benefits for couples living apart for reasons beyond their control and supporting affordable housing for seniors; (c) ask the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to study and report back to the House on important issues such as increasing income security for vulnerable seniors and ensuring quality of life and equality for all seniors via the development of a National Seniors Strategy; and (d) broaden the mandate of the National Seniors Council to allow it to undertake reviews and analysis on their own initiative and allow for a better representation of the diversity of experience and expertise on seniors, as well as to encourage it, following the study by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities referred to in (c), to provide advice on implementing a National Seniors’ Strategy.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to Canadians about Motion No. 106, my motion calling on the federal government to take action to help improve quality of life for seniors in Canada. I would like to thank the hon. member from King—Vaughan for her excellent work related to seniors issues, and also all my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House for their work toward improving seniors' lives and conditions in Canada. I would also like to thank the hon. Senator Sharon Carstairs for working with me and for reminding me that there are as many ways to age as there are people aging. Seniors should be defined by how they live and not by their age.
Above all, I want to emphasize that we should view the aging population as an opportunity and not an obstacle for Canada to update a wide range of public policy.
I was raised by my father, who had 16 brothers and sisters, and my mother, who had 15 brothers and sisters. They were part of two big Catholic French-Canadian families. I had more than 60 aunts and uncles. I am proud to have grown up in a big, warm family that supported me. Now, my parents, aunts and uncles are all getting older.
I had the pleasure of meeting seniors in their homes and in assisted living centres throughout my riding of Nickel Belt and in Greater Sudbury
Many seniors told me that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Doctors, the health system, and Canada's social programs do not meet all their needs. They also told me that they want to be independent and live at home for as long as possible.
That is why I believe that today's debate on Motion No. 106 is so important and that the aging of Canadian society requires ongoing and serious attention.
By 2035, 25% of the population is projected to be 65 or older, and is expected to account for 60% of health care spending across the provinces and territories. In my mind, there is little doubt that this is unsustainable. That is why Motion No. 106 calls on the government to recognize that improving efficiencies and quality of care for seniors should be a critical priority for the federal government, as the future of Canada's social safety net not just for seniors, but for the entire population is at stake.
Motion No.106 asks the federal government to take action to improve quality of life for seniors. As there are undoubtedly many Canadians who are listening and participating in this debate, I believe the time is now for the federal government and members of Parliament to speak directly to them, to clearly inform Canadians about what the federal government is doing to improve the quality of life for those who are considered seniors now, as well as those who will be considered seniors soon.
Motion No. 106 asks that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development study the important issues related to the aging of Canadians that will inform the development of a national seniors strategy. That is something that more than 49,000 Canadians have demanded by writing letters to their MPs as part of the Canadian Medical Association's demandaplan.ca campaign.
In an August of 2014 Toronto Star article, Dr. Chris Simpson, incoming president of the CMA, called seniors' care the most pressing public issue in Canada today. He said, “If we can fix seniors' care, we will go a long way to fixing our health care system.”
I think it would be a disservice to Canadians if the House proposed a plan for a national seniors' strategy without consulting them first.
In developing such a strategy, we must consider input from experts, such as academics, caregivers, doctors, members of local and national associations, hospital administrators, seniors residences, as well as the seniors themselves. That is why I am calling on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to conduct a study to inform the development of a national seniors' strategy and during which testimony will help the committee draft its report, make recommendations, and determine what such a strategy should focus on.
I will, however, suggest six sectors in the continuum of care that the development of a national seniors strategy should seek to address.
The first sector is wellness and prevention. A national seniors strategy should highlight best practices for improving the social detriments for seniors. There are conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age such as secure income, stable and affordable housing, social connections, and active lifestyles. In doing so, we will reduce the strain on seniors seeking acute care at hospitals.
The second sector that the national strategy for seniors should address is primary care. Primary care can be defined as highlighting best practices for integrating primary and specialist care, facilitating greater availability of advanced training in aging and palliative care, and building knowledge of how to facilitate advanced care planning, including fraud and injury prevention, health promotion, illness, and chronic health concerns. At the same time, more than half of our seniors claim that they take five or more drugs from different classes, and 20% of seniors reported that no medical practitioner had reviewed their medication regime in over a year. The lack of integration among health care systems causes real strain on the health care system, and the CMA reports that between 2006 and 2011 there were almost 140,000 hospitalizations for adverse drug reactions for seniors in Canada.
The third, and perhaps most important, national seniors strategy sector should focus on home care and community support. According to CMA, caring for seniors at home and in their community as opposed to in hospitals is one of the most cost-effective ways that our health care system can meet the needs of seniors who are not fully experiencing Alzheimer's or dementia or who are not critically ill. Clearly, a national seniors strategy should focus on developing and implementing policies and best practices that encourage treating seniors in their homes and enabling seniors to live in their communities as long as possible. This is something that nine out of 10 seniors have said is of critical importance to them. Home care is also the most cost effective and is what seniors want themselves. The 2009 Senate report on aging, tabled by Senators Carstairs and Keon, notes that family and friends provide about 80% of all home care to seniors living in a community and up to 30% of services to seniors living in institutions. A national seniors strategy should pave the way for a comprehensive plan for families and caregivers that takes into consideration the financial needs of family members as well as of caregivers who provide home care, and the stress and financial burden that they take on as a result.
The fourth sector the national seniors' strategy should address is short-term care and specialized care that is generally provided in hospital settings and usually in the form of a short stay to treat serious conditions.
More patients will be receiving what is called “alternate level of care” as the population ages and more Canadians seek access to home care or long-term care.
The national seniors' strategy could focus on the federal government's role in reducing wait times for seniors who need to see specialists and ensuring better coordination between levels of care so that those people would not be stuck in a hospital bed receiving alternate level of care while they wait for a transfer to a long-term care facility or back home.
The fifth sector the national seniors' strategy should tackle is long-term care. Most seniors who live in long-term care facilities have cognitive issues. Their physical health has declined, and they have trouble doing day-to-day tasks.
We need to prepare for a dramatic increase in demand in this sector. I think the best way for the federal government to meet those needs is to invest more in affordable, adequate housing with a special focus on the co-operative sector.
Lastly, the sixth sector that a national senior strategy should study is palliative care. According to CMA, starting palliative care early combined with medical treatment provides better pain and symptom management, better patient and family satisfaction, and the increased likelihood that a patient will pass away in a preferred setting.
A national seniors strategy could look at ways for the federal government to make palliative care more affordable and more accessible to people living in remote and rural areas. It could look at how to provide greater access to palliative care for those with disabilities and members of indigenous communities, and how to provide greater support for family caregivers who are so essential for the delivery of palliative care to their loved ones.
Now I would like to briefly go over why Motion No. 106 calls for the mandate of the National Seniors Council to be broadened. My motion asks the federal government to broaden the mandate of the National Seniors Council to allow it to better reflect the diversity and expertise among its members.
Currently, the National Seniors Council has a mandate to undertake extensive research, convene expert panels and round tables, and hold meetings to provide advice to the federal government, but only on as needed basis at the direction of the minister.
Motion No. 106 seeks to empower the National Seniors Council by broadening its mandate to determine research priorities and projects of its own initiative, where in the past it was directed by the minister to conduct research without any consultation from the council.
Broadening the mandate of the National Seniors Council would, in essence, enable it to conduct timely and relevant research for the federal government, and in doing so, enable policy-makers to set budgets, craft legislation, and plan for the future with better research and data to back up their decisions.
As my first private member's bill, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Nickel Belt for their trust. I would also like to thank my lovely wife, who is here today, for all her support, and wish her a happy birthday for Monday.
Also, I would also like to give big thanks to my hard-working staff, Anne, James, Rebecca, Janik, Stephanie, Kim, and Sheri. I thank them so much for their dedication and devotion.
Lastly, I ask all Canadians to reach out to seniors. I would ask them to take the extra time, volunteer, and reach out to seniors who have built this wonderful country.
I ask all MPs to support Motion No. 106. It is the start of an important conversation to improve the quality of life of all seniors living in Canada.