Government Relations Report Issue 68

Fall 2008 CSANews Issue 68  |  Posted date : Sep 19, 2008.Back to list

It has been a busy summer on the political front here at the CSA. In July, I, along with research and communications officer Michael MacKenzie, sat down with Ontario's deputy leader of the Opposition and critic for health and long-term care, Elizabeth Witmer. Ms. Witmer, who has represented the people of Kitchener-Waterloo in the Ontario legislature for the past 18 years, also served as Ontario's minister of health from 1997-2001. With a résumé like that, she has a better understanding of our concerns than many of the politicians with whom we meet.

The primary focus of our meeting was Ontarians' access to an adequate supply of prescription medication for use during travel. Ontarians can maintain their health benefits and remain out of Ontario for up to 212 days (approximately seven months) in any 12-month period. Unfortunately, Ontario's Drug Benefit Program will only cover the cost of a 200-day supply of prescription medication. We would like the Ontario government to amend the Ontario Drug Benefit Program to ensure that Ontario travellers are permitted to obtain an additional 12-day supply of prescription medication. This would allow Ontarians to take full advantage of the 212 days for which they are permitted to travel outside of the province in a 12-month period without having to worry about endangering their health by running short of essential prescription medication. Ms. Witmer has agreed to help the CSA lobby Ontario Health Minister David Caplan on this important issue and I look forward to updating you on our progress in the winter edition of CSANews.

In August, I met with Ontario MPP (Carleton-Mississippi Mills) Norm Sterling in his constituency office. Norm was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1977 and has held many ministerial portfolios over the years. We discussed many of the issues that concern our members and we had a very productive meeting. We can count Norm as another ally in our fight to ensure that Ontario travellers have an adequate supply of prescription medication when they head south for the winter.

Also in August, I, along with CSA President Don Gardiner, had the opportunity of meeting federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities the Honourable Lawrence Cannon. We also met with Ontario Opposition leader John Tory and Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman. You can read a more detailed account of these meetings in the president's message in this issue of CSANews.

Election drums are beating in Ottawa and there is a good chance that by the time this magazine reaches your mailbox, we will be right in the middle of another federal election. In order to ensure that our concerns receive the attention which they deserve, the association will send letters to the party leaders asking them to clearly state their positions on "snowbird issues," particularly as related to the portability principle of the Canada Health Act. It is important to remember that although the day-to-day provision of most health-care services is the responsibility of our provincial and territorial governments, the Canada Health Act is federal legislation. If the provinces are not meeting their funding obligations under the portability principle (and with the exception of Prince Edward Island, they are not), it is up to our federal representatives to take action. Once we have received the responses, we will post them on our website so that our members will know where the party leaders stand before casting their vote. CSA staff is also busy producing the next edition of our federal election handbook. The association will send each of our members a copy containing the aforementioned questions that we will be sending to the party leaders. We will also be posting the handbook on our website at www.snowbirds.org. The handbook will give you the tools which you need to effectively question your local candidates when they knock on your door or at your local town hall meeting.

If an election is called, we will have information available on our website about registering with Elections Canada to obtain an absentee voting package for those members who are making an early trip south.

I wish all of you a safe journey over the next few months and I hope that you have a happy and healthy winter, wherever the road takes you.

I almost forgot – if there is a federal election this fall, don't forget to vote!