Government Relations Report

Summer 1999 CSANews Issue 32  |  Posted date : Mar 02, 2007.Back to list

As chairman of the Government Relations Committee, I find it heartening to hear about the number of calls that we have received regarding the CSA Special Report. As we knew it would, this report has become an invaluable tool for our members ­ providing insight and information at a glance. I am especially thrilled to hear that the Canadian Consulate in Florida is having a hard time keeping them in stock. We received the following fax from Jan Lawson, Consul: "As both a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association and Canadian Consul in Florida, I wanted to express my appreciation for your helpful and interesting special report. I displayed them in the consulate lobby from where they disappeared quickly in the hands of our Canadian visitors. The Consular Bureau in Ottawa also sends along its appreciation."
Provincial Elections
Our provinces have experienced a very busy (and in some instances, tumultuous) few months. Nova Scotia has recently elected a Progressive Conservative government ­ and we sincerely hope that Premier Hamm's government will be more open to change than the previous administration. It is our intention to continue to fight for the right of Nova Scotia residents to travel ­at the very least within Canada ­ above and beyond the 183 days that are currently allowed. We have in our possession a letter from former Health Minister, Jim Smith, that states: "At present, most provinces continue to use the 183-day rule as the basis for residency and medical coverage. Until such time as there is a significant shift in this rule in other provinces, Nova Scotia will also continue to use the 183-day rule." This is not acceptable to us ­ not when British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are granting their residents greater freedom to travel. We sincerely hope that Nova Scotia's new Minister of Health, Jamie Muir, will be receptive to these prime examples of how change can be effected without additional expense to the taxpayer.

At time of this printing, CSA President Bob Jackson has just met with New Brunswick's new Minister of Health, the Honourable Dennis Furlong. We were gratified that Minister Furlong's office arranged a meeting with Bob Jackson very soon after the call was made. As a result of this first meeting we have great optimism that Premier Bernard Lord's new government will reflect his vitality and determination ­ and will enter into discussion with an open mind and positive outlook.

Among the many issues that Bob Jackson will be discussing will be New Brunswick's contravention of the Portability Section of the Canada Health Act by paying only $100 per day towards out-of-province hospital expenses, instead of the amount stipulated in the Canada Health Act. We are also trying to have New Brunswick amend its residency regulations to allow travel (at the very least within Canada) beyond the stated 183 days. Finally, Bob will also be drawing to Minister Furlong's attention, the necessity of travellers being able to access a supply of prescription drugs equal to the length of their time away.

Ontario overwhelmingly renewed its acceptance of the Progressive Conservatives under the leadership of Premier Mike Harris. The Honourable Cam Jackson, who was the heart and soul in convincing his party to make amendments to Ontario's residency and drug regulations, has taken on new responsibilities as Ontario's Minister of Tourism. Our plans are to continue discussion with the Health Minister, The Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, to introduce an annually indexed formula to determine the amount of insured health services within a province for similar services rendered out of province.

Freedom of Travel
Four of our provinces have made travel easier for snowbirds ­ without the necessity of passing legislation. Manitoba's Director, Malcolm Joyce may claim Manitoba's change of heart as a personal victory on behalf of all "his" snowbirds. After personal meetings and much correspondence, he received a letter in January, 1999 from then-Minister of Health, Darren Praznik stating: "I wish to confirm that residents who live and make their home in Manitoba and who may spend up to six months in a calendar year outside Canada will not lose their health coverage if, during the remaining six months, they choose to travel within Canada." Another hurdle has been passed.

We are not ready to rest on our laurels, however. The same letter goes on to state, "...the regulations governing the Prescription Drugs Cost Assistance Act which governs Pharmacare were amended October 1, 1996 to restrict Pharmacare reimbursement for eligible medications to a maximum of 100 days' supply in a 90-day period. This is a consistent practice for most provincial jurisdictions." With an election very soon, now is the time to make your voices heard. Your CSA Special Report gave you the address and phone number for Manitoba's Minister of Health ­ use it. Give Minister Stefanson your opinion ­ and while you're at it, thank him for the freedom to travel that was granted in January.

As you will recall in an earlier CSA News, I wrote about letters received from the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island which allowed for short trips above and beyond the 183 days. As positive as these letters are, they are not legislation, and we will continue to fight to have the amendments "put on the books." In the meantime, to all of you in Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, happy trails.