Government Relations Report Issue 65

Winter 2007 CSANews Issue 65  |  Posted date : May 22, 2008.Back to list

Since the Fall 2007 issue of CSANews, elections have taken place in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories. There is also a great deal of speculation that an election in Alberta is right around the corner.

On November 7, the Saskatchewan party behind leader Brad Wall brought an end to 16 years of NDP rule when they defeated the government of Premier Lorne Calvert. The Saskatchewan party was first formed a decade ago and aligned disaffected provincial liberals and conservatives with the aim of providing an alternative to the governing NDP.

Floyd Roland is the new premier in the Northwest Territories. The longtime politician was elected in Yellowknife by his fellow members of the legislature under the rules of the territory's consensus government. Although the incumbent governments in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were re-elected, there are a number of new faces in their respective cabinets and legislative assemblies whom we will be bringing up to speed on the issues that are of importance to you, our members.

In September, CSA President Gerry Brissenden, together with senior CSA staff, was invited by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to attend a private economic briefing with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toronto. At that briefing, Prime Minister Harper announced one of the largest reductions in the federal debt in Canadian history and said that the resulting effective interest savings will be used to reduce personal income taxes. 

A brief update on the property tax situation in Florida. On October 3, Canadian Snowbird Association legal counsel Wallace Weylie submitted a brief to Florida's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. He pointed out the shocking disparity between the taxes paid by a non-resident and those entitled to the homestead exemption, and the detrimental effect which this is having on the state's tourism industry. On January 29, 2008, Florida voters will go to the polls to cast their votes regarding the Florida legislature's proposed property tax reform package. The proposed plan would double the $25,000 homestead exemption and permit portability of the Save Our Homes assessment cap, which limits tax hikes on homesteaded property to three per cent annually. Unfortunately, as you can read in greater detail in the president's message, this only applies to permanent residents of Florida and not to snowbirds.

Non-homestead assessments (snowbirds) would be capped at an annual rate of 10 per cent. Allowing assessments to increase by 10 per cent in a single year would be bad enough. Allowing them to rise by 10 per cent on top of the existing disproportionately high snowbird property tax bills is frankly of very little help. The January referendum must be passed by 60 per cent of voters, so stay tuned.

In October, I attended a luncheon with Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald and United States ambassador to Canada, David Wilkens. Ambassador Wilkens was very familiar with the work of the Canadian Snowbird Association. He thanked me for our ongoing efforts in keeping Canadians updated about the many (and often confusing) changes in the required travel documents needed to visit the United States. Ambassador Wilkens also expressed an interest in meeting with representatives of the CSA early in the new year.

This marks my final column as chair of the Government Relations Committee. I have been fortunate enough to have been selected as the incoming president of the Canadian Snowbird Association. I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to bring the concerns of our membership before our elected representatives.

I would like to thank President Gerry Brissenden for his four outstanding years leading the CSA. Gerry's tireless efforts have been largely responsible for increasing the media profile of the association and thus, increasing the profile of the issues that concern our members. He has brought your issues to the federal government, as well as to our provincial and territorial governments from coast to coast. He has also given an earful to the governor of Florida regarding the property tax issue and has been invited back to the governor's office for another meeting, quite an achievement!

I still can't get over the fact that he convinced federal Health Minister Tony Clement to write all of his provincial and territorial colleagues reminding them of their obligations under the portability criterion of the Canada Health Act. Take it from me – that is not a letter which a federal health minister is anxious to write to his colleagues. It is a real testament to the hard work which Gerry's been doing in Ottawa over the last four years.

No less a reason for the CSA's (and Gerry's) many achievements is the amazing contribution of his lovely wife Joan. From every Lifestyle Show in Canada to every Extravaganza and Winter Information Meeting in the United States, you can find Joan Brissenden at the CSA booth patiently answering questions from thousands of our members and prospective members alike. She has been a great support to Gerry, myself, the other directors, CSA staff and our entire membership. Thank you, Joan, and I look forward to the continued involvement from both you and Gerry in the years to come.

To all our members, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a prosperous 2008. I look forward to building on Gerry's impressive list of accomplishments as your new president.

Pic 1: Don Gardiner at an event at which Ambassador Wilkins thanked Canada for their help after 9-11 and reviewed the history of excellent co-operation over the past number of years. (L-R) U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins, Don Gardiner, Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald

Pic 2:  To help promote the CSA to potential seniors visiting their local pharmacy to get their vacation supply of medications, Gerry and Joan Brissenden set up an information table near the pharmacy on Zellers’ Seniors’ Day (the first Monday of each month).

Pic 3: Gerry attends a followup meeting with federal Health Minister Tony Clement. (L-R) CSA President Gerry Brissenden, Hon. Tony Clement

Pic 4: Gerry attends a meeting of Sunoco retirees to promote a special CSA program aimed at the retirees’ clubs and societies of corporations in Canada.