President's Message Issue 73

Winter 2009 CSANews Issue 73  |  Posted date : Dec 12, 2009.Back to list

In the last issue of CSANews, we appealed to our Saskatchewan members for help in convincing the Saskatchewan government to clarify just how long residents of the province can travel without jeopardizing their health coverage. The rules were unclear and confusing and made it very difficult for people to gain a firm understanding of the requirements. In the last 15 months, I have sat down on two separate occasions with the Saskatchewan health minister, the Hon. Don McMorris to see if we could resolve this issue. We also included a postcard in the fall issue of CSANews that we sent to our Saskatchewan members, which they could send to the minister urging him to take action on this very important matter. Thanks to these efforts, Minister McMorris has assured us (in writing) that the ministry will not monitor absences during the summer period so that snowbirds will be able to visit friends and family outside of Saskatchewan without fear of losing their health benefits.

The minister has also brought some clarity as to what does and does not constitute a "temporary absence" from Saskatchewan. Out-of-country travellers may, in fact, exercise a 12-month temporary absence provision in the regulations. This would enable individuals to travel outside of Canada without loss of resident status. On completion of the 12-month absence period, it would be necessary to return to physical presence in Saskatchewan for six months, after which the traveller would again be eligible for another period of temporary absence. This information will hopefully allow our Saskatchewan members to enjoy their travels without fear of losing their health benefits. I would like to thank all of our Saskatchewan members who took the time to fill out the postcard and make their voices heard to the Saskatchewan government. I would like to thank Minister McMorris for addressing our concerns. Finally, I would like to thank our director for Central Canada (and Saskatchewan resident) John Foster for all of his work in setting up our meetings with the minister. Without his efforts, none of this would have been possible.

In October, John Foster and I travelled to Winnipeg, Manitoba for a meeting with Manitoba's minister of healthy living, the Hon. Kerri Irvin-Ross. We discussed eliminating the red tape which our Manitoba members face when obtaining a sufficient amount of prescription medication for their trips south. We also asked the minister to explain why Manitoba residents are required to obtain a certificate from the provincial government every time they leave the province for more than three months. I wonder how many residents of Manitoba are even aware that this is a requirement? Well, according to the government, it is one of the ways in which they determine whether or not you remain eligible for health benefits. We would like to see this requirement eliminated and are now working with the government toward that end. I will keep you updated on our progress. I should also mention that we sat down with Manitoba's opposition leader, the Hon. Hugh McFadyen, and had a productive meeting discussing these same issues.

My wife Alice and I recently returned from the latest round of fall Snowbird Lifestyle Presentations. This year, we began in Ontario with shows in Kingston, Nepean, St. Catharines and Orillia. From there, we headed west with stops in Regina, Saskatchewan and Calgary, Alberta before concluding our tour with shows in both Vernon and Abbotsford, British Columbia. Once again, these shows offered first-class entertainment in top-notch venues. Not only do they give us an opportunity to meet and entertain you, our members, they also present an opportunity for us to sign up your friends and neighbours and bring them into the snowbird family. I am pleased to report that compared to last year's shows, there was a noticeable increase in both the number of new members and in the existing members who renewed at this year's shows. We also saw a healthy increase in donations to the CSA's Special Action Fund that we exclusively use to fund our government advocacy initiatives (such as the events in Saskatchewan and Manitoba which we reported earlier).

One of the reasons we have such a high batting average when it comes to sitting down with government decision-makers is our strong media presence. When it comes to defending and improving the rights of travelling Canadians, we are the source to which the media turns for information and analysis. In short, we have credibility in our national and provincial media circles and that is the sort of thing that gets the attention of our elected officials. This doesn't happen by accident. We obviously make it a priority to stay on top of the issues that matter to travelling Canadians. We also take a proactive approach to letting the media know what those issues are and how they are constantly evolving. We do this by issuing news releases and picking up the phone and talking to reporters when we identify issues of concern. In today's 24-hour competitive news cycle, it is not enough to sit back and simply offer commentary on a story when the media come to us. We need to constantly remind them of our issues and why they are important to Canadians. In November, I, along with our executive director Lawrence Barker, appeared on CBC's national nightly news program "The National" to discuss some of the current activities of the CSA. This report was seen from coast to coast and is a great example of the credibility we have worked so hard to build during the last 17 years.

Upcoming political meetings on the horizon include our first face-to-face with the new United States ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson and the newly elected premier of Nova Scotia, the Hon. Darrell Dexter.

This year's Snowbird Extravaganza will be held in Lakeland, Florida on January 26-27, 2010. Our Winter Texans' Snowbird Extravaganza will be held in South Padre Island, Texas on February 2-3, 2010 and our Canadian Snowbird Celebration will be held in Mesa, Arizona on February 9-10, 2010. My wife Alice and I hope to meet all of you at one of these events and if you can't make it, please attend one of our Winter Information Meetings later in the season. As always, these shows are free to everyone, so please don't hesitate to bring your friends and family.

Alice and I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year. We look forward to meeting you in 2010.

Pic 1: Don Gardiner, CSA President and John Foster, Director for Central Canada meet with The Hon. Don McMorris, Saskatchewan Minister of Health (centre)

Pic 2: Don Gardiner, CSA President and John Foster, Director for Central Canada meet with The Hon. Kerri Irvin Ross, Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, Province of Manitoba (centre)

Pic 3: (L-R) The Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence; The Hon. Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia; Don Gardiner, CSA President; The Hon. John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities