Ontario Delivers for CSA!

Spring 1999 CSANews Issue 31  |  Posted date : Mar 01, 2007.Back to list

On Friday, January 22, 1999 at Snowbird Extravaganza, Ontario Premier Mike Harris responded to years of lobbying efforts by the Canadian Snowbird Association by delivering three substantial amendments to provincial regulations benefiting CSA members.

Until his announcement, nine of Canada's provinces restricted their residents from most travel outside their provincial boundaries once the 183-day maximum had been reached. Ontario has taken the leadership role in addressing snowbird issues and, effective March 1, 1999, Subclause 1.1 (2) (a) (ii) of Regulation 552 of the Revised Regulations of Ontario, 1990 is revoked and the following substituted:

(ii) is present in Ontario for at least 153 days in any 12-month period...

Cam Jackson, Ontario's Minister of Long-Term Care spoke about the change at the press conference following the announcement. "If an Ontario resident has been outside the province for six months, returns and suddenly gets word that a family member is ill in British Columbia, he or she will be able to leave the province ... without fear of being cut off from OHIP coverage."

In order to enact the 30-day grace period, without creating or adding a bureaucracy, the regulation simply states that the resident must be present in the province for only 153 days in a 12-month period, as well as maintaining a principal residence in order to qualify for OHIP. Ontarians now have the freedom to travel for seven months, period!

Many snowbirds have called the CSA offices enquiring as to whether this 30-day extension will allow for greater periods of time in the United States. This now becomes a taxation and residency issue. Guests of the U.S. are allowed to stay for a period of 182 days without having to file a tax return with the IRS. The Closer Connection Form that appears on pages 53 and 54 is proof to the IRS that a Closer Connection exists with a foreign country (i.e. that principal residence is maintained in Canada). The additional 30 days, once the 182-day U.S. maximum is reached, is intended for travel within Canada or overseas.

CSA is, however, continuing to address longer U.S. stays through its lobbying efforts on the "Snowbird Visa." Important changes have also been made to the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB). Previously, only a 100-day supply of medication for ODB recipients travelling outside Ontario was allowed. Effective March 1, all snowbirds travelling outside of the province for more than 100 days will be allowed to obtain a second 100-day supply of medication before leaving Ontario. This eliminates the need to make arrangements for medication outside the province.

In order to obtain an early refill for a second supply of up to 100 days of medication, the traveller must supply his or her pharmacist with a personal letter confirming travel in excess of 100 days, or a copy of their travel insurance policy, confirming an absence of more than 100 days. The normal co-payment fee remains in effect for the second 100 days' supply. The 100-day maximum for ODB recipients remaining in Ontario has not been altered.

"This particular regulation may very well save lives," said Bob Jackson, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association. "Before, snowbirds had to either visit a U.S. doctor who was unaware of their current medical situation, or rely on a Canadian mail-order pharmacy to send prescriptions. The latter resulted in higher costs for shipping, an added burden of providing photo-identification prior to departure and, in some cases, substantial delays in medication arriving. Seniors were forced to go without necessary medication while waiting for their new prescription to arrive, and this was completely unacceptable. Now, travellers are allowed to take sufficient medication for the duration of their trip."

"The Snowbirds have been very effective in making the concerns of their members known to our government," said Cam Jackson. "By listening and now acting, we are improving health care. We made a good health decision that seniors who travel should take with them their required medications. This is good common sense and good health policy."

The Premier's third, and perhaps least-heralded announcement gives "Ontarians abroad" their greatest constitutional freedom of all ­ the freedom to vote while outside of their province. While Canadians already enjoy the right to vote federally while out of the country, it is only now that Ontarians have been given that same right to vote provincially.

A recent brochure distributed by Elections Ontario states, "Once an election has been called, voters who for any reason believe they will not be able to vote in person at an advance poll or on election day, may apply in writing to the Returning Officer in their electoral district to vote by proxy and appoint some other elector in the electoral district to vote for them.

The completed application may be given, or sent by mail to the person they are appointing to vote for them by proxy. The person being appointed as proxy voter must take the application to the Returning Officer or Revision Assistant of their electoral district before 8 p.m. on the day before polling day. They will then be issued a certificate to vote by proxy."

With these three announcements on January 22, 1999, Ontario has used "common sense" to improve our snowbird lifestyle. There's still much work to be done in all of Canada's provinces, and the Canadian Snowbird Association intends to be there. Your voice does make a difference.