Government Relations Report Issue 64

Fall 2007 CSANews Issue 64  |  Posted date : Oct 17, 2007.Back to list

October is shaping up to be a busy month on the Canadian political scene. Voters in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories will be going to the polls to cast their ballots. How do we know this?

Historically, election dates in Canada have been unfixed and decided by our provincial and territorial premiers and their governments. This gives the government of the day a significant advantage, as they can potentially manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage.

In recent years, governments in Canada have explored ways to reform their democratic systems. One of the most widely heralded policy reforms has been the discussion and/or passage of fixed federal, provincial and territorial election dates. Fixed election dates are generally considered to be more advantageous than unfixed dates due to their higher associated levels of fairness, transparency, predictability and voter turnout.

For years, the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) has been lobbying our federal, provincial and territorial governments urging them to move to fixed election date systems in their electoral jurisdictions.

Fixed election dates, preferably in the autumn, would greatly enhance the ability of our members to plan their trips south without jeopardizing their ability to exercise their democratic right and responsibility.

In 2001, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to adopt legislation fixing provincial election dates and, in 2005, became the first province to hold an election on a fixed date. Other provinces and territories have since adopted similar measures, namely Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories. In 2007, the government of Canada adopted legislation fixing election dates at the federal level. There is also a bill currently before the New Brunswick legislature that, if passed, would set fixed election dates in that province.
These are great examples of your donations to the Special Action Fund paying off through our lobbying efforts and, although we have many more issues which we need to resolve, it certainly is encouraging.

In order to ensure that the issues which affect snowbirds are kept in the spotlight, CSA staff are busy preparing election handbooks for the October elections in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. These handbooks will outline the limitations of the respective province’s reimbursement rates for out-of-province medical care, preservation of health coverage for frequent travellers, prescription drug allowances and many other important issues that affect all Canadian travellers.

Under the portability section of the Canada Health Act (section 11), insured Canadian residents who are temporarily absent from their home province and when they are outside of Canada MUST continue to be covered for insured health services during their absence. When the insured services are provided outside of Canada, payment is supposed to be made on the basis of the amount that would have been paid by the province for similar services rendered in the province. This allows individuals to travel or be absent from their home province or territory, within a prescribed duration, while retaining their health insurance coverage.

As our election handbooks will demonstrate, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador are paying significantly lower than home-province rates for emergency hospital services received outside of Canada and are thus NOT meeting their requirements under the portability section of the Canada Health Act.

These handbooks will be sent to the political parties in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador prior to the election and will ask the leaders the tough questions that our members expect us to ask. They will also be mailed to our thousands of members in these two provinces so that members can raise these issues with the candidates at the doorstep when they come asking for our votes.

This kind of grassroots trench work is the sort of effort which we have to make if we want to keep our issues front and centre on the political radar of our elected officials and there’s no better time to do that than during an election.

October will present a unique opportunity to make our voices heard on multiple fronts and our election handbooks will ensure that you, our members, will have the information which you need to show our politicians that we mean business.

Let’s go get 'em!