Autumn View Edition 2, 2018

Autumn View Edition 2, 2018


A message from the Chair

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend I had run into whose wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing extensive chemo. This involves a visit to the hospital at least once a week and sometimes twice, and often visits with the oncologist in between. His main concern of course was with her wellbeing and prognosis, but the conversation inevitably strayed to the ridiculous cost of parking for the many visits. As he pointed out her health and age dictated parking close. The hospital lot was the only choice but the expense was becoming prohibitive. The small amount of savings on monthly passes that hospitals were encouraged to implement because of the Ontario Liberal initiative was of no help. That’s because their many visits were on a basis of a day here and a day there.

Even though he was not a retired government employee, I passed along the fact that within OPSEU the Retired Members Division in conjunction with others in the union were working on a campaign and petition looking to eliminate all parking charges for patients at all Ontario hospitals. The reason this was started was the gross unfairness of hospitals financially bleeding folks like them, when money should be the last thing they need to think about.

My friend was eager to sign the petition and made me promise that when it was available he would get the chance to do so. I said I would and wished him and his wife the best, but found myself thinking how important our work on this effort was to so many people across this province.

How long it will take to get this campaign really underway remains to be seen. Getting to this stage has already taken a year but the petition is in its’ final stages and meetings with MPPs across this province are also part of what is planned. We will keep you posted as to when and where but please get involved. It is important to all residents of Ontario and it could and likely will affect you, your family or friends. 

Ed Faulknor, Chair
OPSEU Retired Members Division

Understanding the difference between a personal advisor and “robo-advice”

Automated Portfolio Management Services –

Known popularly as “robo-advisors” – have made headlines in recent years. These online services use algorithms to make portfolio recommendations based on the information an investor provides in a questionnaire. These services are just starting to gain ground in Canada, with marketing campaigns that include TV commercials, billboards and full-page ads.

Although most investors continue to work with human advisors, the rise of web-based investment platforms has made understanding the difference between the two – robo-advisors and human advisors – more important than ever.

How does “robo-advice” work?

Because these platforms don’t offer individualized advice, the term “robo-advisor,” although catchy, is a misnomer. It’s actually just software. When a client registers for a service, she or he answers a set of questions that determines a generic investor prole.1 The software then presents the client with choices of ready-made portfolios based on the profile.

Because the profiles are formulaic – quite literally based on a mathematical formula – they can only account for a limited range of goals and risk tolerances. Robo-advisor software is designed to sort clients into broad categories and to serve those categories quickly and at a lower cost.

This model relies on the investor answering the questionnaire accurately. It also places the responsibility of choosing the best portfolio on the client instead of the advisor, because there is no advisor.

The role of an advisor

Human advisors are licensed experts who create comprehensive financial plans designed to build wealth, minimize taxes and accomplish a diverse range of other goals. These may include everything from being able to afford next year’s vacation to buying a home to living comfortably in retirement. Because money is more than an account balance – it’s a family’s home, a child’s university tuition, an emergency fund for tough times – creating a plan requires understanding the emotional importance of each financial goal.

An advisor also does much more than portfolio rebalancing. She or he can help rearrange investments for tax efficiency, review budget and saving strategies, and put in place the right financial protection.

As a result of understanding the full picture of a client’s life, a financial professional can handle varying degrees of complexity. If a client experiences major changes, plans can be adjusted to respond to the client’s new circumstances.

By the same token, if the economy changes, an advisor has the depth of knowledge to provide a proper analysis and plan of action. When faced with the decision of staying the course or making an adjustment, you can sit down with an expert intimately familiar with your investments. An advisor can evaluate what the decision will mean, not just for your portfolio, but for your long-term financial well-being.

The bigger picture

One of the primary advantages of working with an advisor is nuanced “big picture” planning. Investing isn’t so much about buying a product; it’s about acquiring the component parts of a far-sighted strategy. Ideally, investments complement each other and click neatly into place within a financial plan. They’re allocated to generate growth or provide an income, to meet short- and long-term goals, to save taxes and to build a legacy. Furthermore, the plan must adapt – and the investments must be rebalanced – as the investor’s circumstances change.

That’s why off-the-shelf products available through “robo” portfolio management don’t always generate the most value. One recent study compared investors who work with advisors to investors who don’t. After four to six years, the advised investors had accumulated savings worth nearly 1.7 times as much as the unadvised investors. After seven to 14 years, they were up to 2.9 times as much. After 15 years, they had amassed 3.9 times as much. This suggests that the longer people work with an advisor, the more they benefit from advice.

Translating a vision into a plan

Because priorities change and what’s right today need not be a forever decision, a financial plan that takes into account a variety of objectives is essential. When it comes right down to it, beating the market isn’t anyone’s true objective. That’s just a means to an end. The end is the flexibility to live life as you want and reach your financial and life goals. An advisor’s unique skill set supports the ability to translate a client’s vision into a concrete, achievable plan. While financial acumen is part of that skill set, so are perspective, context and the capacity to help a client stick to a plan for years. Maintaining trust and motivation takes more than a mathematical formula – it takes a real relationship.

This article was supplied by Leony deGraaf Hastings, of deGraaf Financial Strategies or 1-800-775-7047.

Aging Parents and the Cost of Care

The fastest-growing age group in the 2016 Census was centenarians – people over age 100.  And a growing aging population brings health care challenges. It’s falling to adult children to handle the realities of their parents’ declining health, and in many cases the associated costs as well.

Statistics Canada calls years lived in full health “health-adjusted life expectancy” (HALE).  The latest figures show men with a HALE at birth of 69 years and women with a HALE at birth of 71 years.  Given rising life expectancies for both men and women, this means the average Canadian will live with some level of disability for about 10.5 years.

Living with a disability can be a financial challenge for seniors and their adult children.  One estimate pegs the cost to Canadians of caring for aging parents at $33 billion every year, factoring in both out-of-pocket spending and time away from work.  Out-of-pocket spending alone averages $3,300 annually for every caregiver who is contributing financially to a parent’s care.  The good news is that adult children and their parents can work together to prepare for potential expenses.  Focusing on budgeting, short-term and long-term financial planning, insurance protection and tax strategies can go a long way to putting a plan in place.

How much will it cost?  The first step towards planning to pay the costs associated with parents’ care is to work out what those costs will be – and that’s difficult because expenses vary widely depending on each person’s state of health, as well as the lifestyle and level of care desired.  For seniors who are considering or require accommodation outside the family home, costs may include the following:

Independent living:  $1,400 to $3, 500 monthly, independent living in a retirement community or retirement home is for seniors who want conveniences such as easy access to shops and activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, walking and continence).  There may be on-site gardens, fitness centres, pools and even golf courses.  Services such as housekeeping, meals, laundry and transportation may be available for an extra price.  Generally, seniors and or their families must pay the full cost of independent living.

Assisted living:  $1,500 to $5,000 monthly assisted living in a retirement community, retirement home or residential care home provides some support with the activities of daily living and is designed for seniors who can manage most things on their own.  Heath care professionals, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists, may visit regularly, and residents may get help managing their medications.  Costs, which may be structured as a flat rate or a la carte, may be partially paid by the government.

Around-the-clock care:  $2,500 to $8,000 monthly around-the-clock care in a long-term care home is for seniors who need more support with the activities of daily living.  It often includes leisure activities, exercise programs, physical therapy, medication management, pain management and hospice care.  Each province sets the maximum it will contribute towards long-term care accommodation.  In addition, memory care is a specialized type of around-the-clock care that may be offered in an assisted living facility or long-term care home.

A secure area, often with alarms on doors, helps protect residents with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease from wandering.  It may be partially funded by the government as well.  For seniors who prefer to stay in their own home, there may be expenses associated with home renovations to improve access to the home and safety in areas such as stairs, bathrooms and kitchens.

Additional costs may include: 

Personal care worker $20 – $30 hourly, Registered nurse:  $40 to $69 hourly, Live-in caregiver:  $1,900 to $3,500 monthly, Electric hospital bed:  $3,000 to $5,000, Scooter:  $2,400 to $5,000, Walker: $100 to $450, Bath lift:  $1,200.  Medication dispensing machine plus monitoring: $800.

It’s important to note that around-the-clock care at home may require two or three live-in caregivers or shift workers to comply with provincial labour laws governing the maximum number of hours one person can remain on duty in a day.  Some of these costs may be partially paid by the government, based on a case manager’s assessment of needs and the financial resources available to pay for care.

Support strategies:  The burden of providing and paying for quality care doesn’t have to rest solely on seniors or their adult children.  Government, corporate and charitable programs can offer some support.  Other family members may be in a position to provide care or financial assistance as well.  Consider these tactics to help manage the costs:

1. Find out what’s covered. Government programs can help pay for equipment, such as wheelchair, home improvements and vehicle modifications for people who need them.  In addition, some car manufacturers have mobility programs that help pay for vehicle modifications.  Benefit plans may provide additional coverage, so look up the details of parents’ policies.

2.  Check parent’s insurance protection.  Do parents have critical illness insurance?  It pays a lump sum that can be used for any purpose if they are diagnosed with a covered condition such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer.  Do they have other life or health insurance, such as long-term care insurance, that would help pay for care?  If they don’t have coverage and you’re considering senior care far enough in advance that parents are relatively healthy, it’s worth discussing insurance options with an advisor.

3.  Tally parents’ income and savings.  Parents may have enough money to pay some or all of their own costs.  Income may include a monthly benefit from the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and, for low-income seniors, the Guaranteed Income Supplement.  Provincial benefits may add an income top-up.  Parents may also have a private Registered Pension Plan, Registered Retirement Savings Plan, Registered Retirement Income Fund savings, Tax-Free Savings Account savings, and cash and investments in non-registered accounts.  Get a clear picture of what’s there and decide which income and savings will pay for what expenses.

4.  Consider leveraging assets.  If seniors are moving into different accommodations but own a home, they may be able to sell it or rent it out and use the proceeds to pay for their new living arrangements.

If they don’t want to sell their home outright, they could consider borrowing against their equity with a reverse mortgage or home equity line of credit.  If they have accumulated a cash value in a life insurance policy, this may be a source of funds as well.  It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of all these options with an advisor.

5.  Save on equipment.  It’s a good idea to research and comparison shop before buying equipment – especially big-ticket items.  Consider gently used equipment.  And, if a parent needs something only for a short period of time – for example, while recovering from an injury – find out if it’s possible to rent, instead of buying.  Ask family and friends as well.  Someone may have just what’s needed in a closet and be more than happy to declutter and help out.

6.  Minimize taxes.  Help parents take full advantage of tax credits and benefits such as the age amount (maximum $7,225), disability amount (maximum $8,113) and deduction of eligible medical expenses.  In addition, the federal government proposes that for 2017 and future years, adult children who are caring for a parent who has a physical or mental infirmity may be able to claim the Canada Caregiver Credit (maximum $6,883).

7.  Take care of the caregivers:  Caregiving is hard work, and many caregivers are under extra pressure if they’re balancing work and other family commitments.  Spending a little extra can save money in the long run if it prevents caregiver burnout.  Find out about respite care – short-term stays for seniors in an assisted living facility that gives caregivers a break.  Day programs for seniors may also be available and are often government-subsidized.  And keep in mind that when parents are gravely ill, caregivers may be eligible for compassionate care benefits from employment insurance for a maximum of 26 weeks.

Planning ahead for parents’ care.  When a parent needs extra help immediately, some decisions must be made in the moment.  But a lot of planning can be done ahead of time, and doing this upfront work can help save stress, worry and money in the long term.  It’s always a good idea to:  Have open conversations with parents about their preferences – for example, do they want to remain at home as long as possible, or would they prefer to be part of a community of other seniors?  Get the details of parents’ finances, including income, savings, debt and insurance.  Discuss with other family members how costs associated with parents’ care can be fairly divided.  Build a dedicated caregiving emergency fund that can cover unexpected expenses and time off work.  Ask to accompany parents to a meeting with their advisor so everyone can work together on creating a plan for their care.  Remember that your advisor, too, is a valuable resource as you work through the challenges of preparing for and managing your parents’ care.  Whether you need help with the financial aspects of caregiving or are looking for caregiving resources in your community, ask your advisor to point you in the right direction.

This article was supplied by Leony deGraaf Hastings, of deGraaf Financial Strategies or 1-800-775-7047.

Ontario Health Coalition

Media Release- March 22, 2018

Better but not cured:  Health Coalition responds to Wynne pre-election funding announcement

(Toronto) – Today’s hospital funding announcement is a move in the right direction but still falls short, the Ontario Health Coalition reported at Queen’s Park after the announcement.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a 4.6 per cent increase in hospital funding to be unveiled in next week’s provincial Budget, just weeks in advance of the June 7th election.

The Ontario Health Coalition is asking for a 5.2 per cent hospital funding increase, multi-year funding and a concrete plan to reopen closed hospital beds, wards, operating rooms and clinics that have been steadily closed down throughout years of cuts.

“While we are obviously positive that the Wynne government is moving in the right direction, today’s announcement is still awfully last minute and the funding announcement coming just weeks before an election does not erase a decade of hospital cuts,” said Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

In the 2017 Budget the Ontario government planned to bump up hospital funding during the election year and then drop it to 3.2 per cent after the election. The Coalition wants clarification as to whether Premier Wynne still intends to drop the funding back down one year from now, as was the case in the last provincial election.

The Coalition has spent the last 12 years fighting local hospital cuts, closures and privatization. “We have saved a dozen small and rural hospitals, birthing units, emergency departments and a vast array of beds and services,” Mehra said.  “However, it has taken years to start to turn the tide. We are concerned that this announcement is temporary and insufficient – and not enough to redress the cuts.”

Fast facts:

1.       Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per population of any province in Canada. As a consequence     Ontario has the worst overcrowding crisis in its hospitals of any province or developed country. 

2.       Ontario funds our hospitals at the lowest rate in the country.

3.       Ontario has the highest rate of hospital readmission in Canada.

4.       Ontario has the least amount of nursing care in our hospitals of any province in Canada.

Links to charts and data sources:   Health System Facts+Trends

~ Protecting Public Medicare for All ~

Ontario Health Coalition
15 Gervais Drive, Suite 201
Toronto, ON M3C 1Y8

The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Seniors

Posted on November 8, 2012 by Carefect Blog Team

Much research has been done on the benefits of massage therapy for seniors and it has been determined that this type of therapy can help with numerous issues either by providing temporary relief or by allowing the body to heal itself.  Here are some ways that massage therapy can help ailing seniors.

Massage therapy is often used in the treatment of older adults who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Different research studies show that it is possible that regular massage may decrease pain, lessen stiffness, and improve functional capabilities.  While this result is most likely temporary, it can allow the senior to enjoy a higher quality of life until the next therapy session.

Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia
Since touch is an important method of communicating with those diagnosed with various dementia diseases, massage therapy is often considered beneficial for calming and relaxing the person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia.  Hand massage can be the most effective since it relies on gentle pressure and is not as invasive as other types of massage.  It is easily taught to caregivers who can use it anytime their senior client or senior loved one becomes agitated.  While it may not always work, it is a low-cost treatment that requires little skill.  Even though studies are inconclusive about the health benefits of massage therapy with dementia patients, it does not have any adverse effects.

Improve Overall Health
Massage therapy can provide numerous benefits for seniors who have no major health issues.  It can improve range of motion, skin colour, muscle tone, and posture.  It also has emotional benefits since the power of touch has long been recognized.

Seniors who receive massage therapy will also notice improvement in their immunization system faster healing of other injuries.  Blood flow and lymph circulation are also improved, as well as overall pain relief for aches and pains that seniors often face.  Flexibility also improves with regular sessions.  Seniors will recognize less anxiety, tension, and stress as well as temporary relief from depression.

Help Sore Muscles Heal Faster
As more seniors live healthier lives and stay active longer, they will have more health issues usually associated with younger people such as sore and pulled muscles from physical activities.  Muscle strains can also result from participating in sports and other active hobbies. Massage Therapy will help sore muscles heal faster.

How Massage Therapy Works in Seniors
Therapists who specialize in geriatric massage learn the differences in providing services to seniors versus the rest of the population.  For instance, mobility may be an issue so they may allow the client to remain in the same position for the entire session.  They often apply different pressure or use specific techniques to provide massage in a hospital bed or wheelchair.  The sessions may also be shorter to prevent the client from getting sore or stiff from lying in one position.

The therapist must be careful to use softer techniques and strokes to prevent tearing thin and fragile skin.  A doctor’s approval may be required for certain health histories to ensure that the massage therapy does not hurt the patient.  No stretching is usually done for senior patients and the therapy is usually begins from the feet with the therapist working their way up the body.  More focus may be given to the hands and feet, especially if the senior does not walk or get around well to provide improved circulation.

What to Look for in a Massage Therapist
If you are looking for a massage therapist for your loved one, you should ask several questions and have certain expectations.  For one thing, find out if they have studied and practiced geriatric massage.  Do not set up an appointment without finding out this important information since the techniques used are drastically different.

The therapist should get a personal history of the patient, including any health problems or medications the senior is currently taking.  Issues such as poor circulation can limit the senior’s ability to feel, which can prevent them from recognizing pressure that is too strong.  The therapist should limit the session, especially if the patient has to maintain one position.  They should also be able to make accommodations for physical limitations, such as allowing them to sit or be in a semi-raised position if they have breathing problems.

Carefect 110 Cumberland St. Toronto, Ontario M5R 3V5 1 877 515 7665

Are Senior’s Institutions Jeopardizing Family Relationships?

Institutionalization of the elderly, whether in a home for the aged, nursing home, or other care facility, has been conceptualized as anything from humanitarian to criminal.  For some individuals, institutionalization represents a home where seniors can live within a supportive social environment; for others, it represents a dumping ground for aged derelicts, unwanted by society.  These conceptualizations are certainly extreme, but for our aging parents, institutionalization can be a frightening reality.  On one hand, institutionalization may be seen as an indication that the elderly can no longer take care of themselves; on the other hand, institutionalization may be seen as an opportunity to strengthen family relationships.  Because institutions provide medical, social, recreational, nutritional and other basic services, the family is able to enjoy the time spent together with their elderly parent.             

There are members of our society that adhere to the common stereotype that institutionalization represents a breakdown of family relationships.  This stereotype maintains that the family has failed in its role as caregiver and has neglected to provide the necessary support services to their elderly parent.  Families, therefore, relinquish this obligation to institutions.  However, there is no conclusive evidence to support the belief that families have abandoned their elderly parent.  Institutions provide basic support services, allowing families to become more involved with their elderly parent to provide psychosocial and emotional support.  This serves to strengthen and improve family unity. 

Seniors in our society are increasing in number.  Canadians are living longer and benefit from a higher standard of living through improved housing and living conditions, involvement in preventative health and fitness routines (i.e., maintaining a healthy lifestyle), advances in medicine, technology, nutrition, and health care.  According to Statistics Canada, the overall life expectancy at birth for Canadians is approximately 80.7 years.  Life expectancy at age 65 is also increasing.  Statistics Canada predicts that Canadians can expect to live to age 85.  Individuals aged 65 years and over account for approximately 14.1% of the Canadian population; by 2050, that figure will rise to 24.9%.  Currently, there are more people aged 65 years and over than there are children.  These figures indicate that our aging population is increasing in number and in visibility.

Not all elderly are institutionalized.  In Canada, approximately 7% of those 65 years of age and over reside in institutions.  Is it possible that the institutionalized elderly have a greater need for medical and social services?  If so, we would expect a greater proportion of elderly to reside in institutions than in the community.  A national survey in the United States found that approximately 10% of the elderly residing in the community are physically impaired (i.e., bedfast/housebound), a figure representing twice the number of elderly residing in institutions.  According to the survey, families are providing the necessary home care for their elderly members with additional support from social service agencies.  As well, it is the less impaired elderly that are more likely to be cared for at home.  Requests for institutionalization are most likely to come from the elderly suffering from continued mental and/or physical challenges, or those who have little or no family members to provide care when they become ill.  

Institutionalization can alleviate much of the hardships imposed on the family.  These hardships, which can be linked to the multiple needs of the elderly, indicate that the family experiences difficulty in coping with these needs, since they feel that they are not adequately trained to deal with these problems.  They may also be restricted by time constraints due to work commitments, or inadequate financial resources.  Family members may notice an improvement in the physical and/or mental well-being of their elderly parent after institutionalization, which can contribute to a more meaningful family relationship.  Finally, new relationships developed within the health care facility can encourage and strengthen growth of relationships within the family.   

A study to assess the quality of care provided the senior residents of the City of Thunder Bay Homes for the Aged conducted by this writer, confirmed positive support for the excellence in living and quality of care provided by the management and support staff.  In order to insure that health care institutions continue to provide quality care to the elderly, this writer concluded that greater cooperation and support for improved assessment, measurement, and monitoring of quality care for the institutionalized elderly is required by the various regulatory bodies such as the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ontario Association of Homes for the Aged, and the Canadian Council on Hospital Accreditation. 

Families are getting smaller, which means that there will be fewer children to look after parents in old age.  Although government and private intervention in the care of the elderly is growing, institutionalization is not a panacea for all the needs of the elderly.  Families provide emotional support, intimate relationships, and a caring, loving environment for their elderly parent.  Although institutions provide health care and other support services, they can never fully replace family involvement in the care of the elderly. 

This opinion piece was written by Joseph N. Agostino MA, an OPSEU retired member from Region 6.

The gig-economy: Uber good or Uber bad?

If you’ve used the Uber app for a cheap ride, bought or sold products on Kijiji, rented room on Airbnb, donated to a campaign through Indiegogo, or used Handy for help around the house, you’ve taken part in a rapidly emerging trend: the gig-economy.

The gig-economy has generated USD $15 billion in revenues for transportation, retail, accommodation, service, and financial markets. It is projected to grow to USD $335 billion by 2025. Uber, a popular transportation company, which operates in over 50 countries, is now gaining popularity in Canada and is worth USD $40 billion with investors such as Google and Goldman-Sachs. 

Consumers believe Uber gives them choice between regulated taxi cab companies and other forms of transportation. Drivers for Uber see opportunities for flexible and independent jobs.

Sounds good: cheaper and more readily available transportation with a no-fuss app on your phone and flexible work for drivers.

But there is a caveat.  And this is why the labor movement is involved.  Beyond the obvious concerns for public safety and accessibility, it’s also part of a much broader debate around rising precarious employment and how to protect labour standards under new trends of non-standard working conditions, the growth of the service sector, and technological change. 

A recent report by CIBC found that employment quality in Canada continues to suffer, reaching a record low. The gig-economy is based on a business model where unregulated companies can generate profits, while shifting costs and risks onto self-employed, low-wage workers. This, in turn, lowers wages and standards in the regulated economy, while threatening retirement security.

As sectors are increasingly deregulated, workers and unions are pushing back in defence of labour protections and public safety.

In the U.S., workers have filed class actions against emerging companies on the grounds that they should be classified as employees and entitled to ensuing benefits and protections.  In California, Teamsters launched the California App-based Drivers Association in order to unionize Uber drivers. Whereas, global unions, such as the International Transportation Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), took a strong stand against Uber, motivating UN Women to retreat from a new global partnership with Uber.

Municipalities and regulators have been all over the map with their response to Uber. Some are allowing the companies to operate while they study new rules, others are imposing fines on Uber drivers, while some countries have banned Uber altogether. 

Others argue that regulators should not be turning away from the sharing economy, but instead should re-examine taxi regulations in order to allow for greater flexibility, competition, and innovation. Uber itself has called for regulation of the industry as it currently falls in a “grey zone” that may ultimately put their operations at risk. 

Most current regulatory structures were not designed for the digital world and are ill-suited for this new economic model. It also opens the door to the type of de-regulation and self-regulation that have allowed some corporations to grow more powerful than governments—putting public health, safety, and the environment at risk. 

Beyond the question of public safety, we must decide whether this employment trend truly provides flexible new opportunities, or whether it’s yet another business model that contributes to the rise of precarious work by preying on a vulnerable workforce in a weak economy.

This article came from The Canadian Labour Congress website.

An internal Finance Canada document warns of feeling of ‘frustration’ over unfair tax loopholes exploited by the rich

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent budget ignored internal polling that showed an overwhelming majority of Canadians wanted his Liberal government to close tax loopholes exploited by corporations and the “top 1%.”

According to a report commissioned by Finance Canada dated November 2017, internal polling and focus groups bluntly told Canada’s finance minister that “the tax system in Canada needs to change.”

But despite what his own department’s public opinion research was telling him, Morneau’s 2018 budget failed to close tax loopholes exploited by big corporations and the wealthiest 1%, costing the federal government up to $12 billion each year.

Internal polling cited by the report found 76% of Canadians said the government should prioritize “making the richest Canadians pay their fair share in taxes.”

As for tax loopholes, the report notes “nearly 3 in 4 rated highly closing tax loopholes used by the richest Canadians (73%).”

Source: Finance Canada

The polling suggests many Canadians are dissatisfied with the country’s tax regime and believe that those at the top are failing to pay their fair share.

In focus groups, some of the most common spontaneous responses included:

• “A sense that large corporations are not paying enough, or have access to too many avenues for tax diversion”;

• “Frustration related to the ability for high income Canadians to use offshore accounts and other strategies to reduce, if not completely eliminate, their share of taxes”;

• “The disproportionate burden of taxes on the middle-class and that group’s inability to leverage or access opportunities to reduce their taxes compared to higher income Canadians.”

And according to the report’s executive summary:

“Participants consistently flagged large corporations and the “top 1%” as the ones who should be paying more in taxes, and small corporations and middle-income earners as the ones already paying their fair share of taxes.”

During the 2015 federal election, the Liberals promised to review the tax system and consider closing loopholes.

Despite this pledge, the government’s continuing inaction means that “the wealthiest Canadians are sometimes paying taxes at rates below the middle class.”

This article is from Politics Now – a UFCW Publication

National Union statement on Unifor and the Canadian Labour Congress

Last week the National Executive Board of Unifor announced that Unifor was, effective immediately, disaffiliating from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is deeply disappointed in this decision and is concerned about the impact that it will have on the labour movement, at both the activist and leadership levels.

Unifor has argued that their decision to disaffiliate was made in furtherance of the principle of defending workers’ democratic rights within their unions. However, within hours of the disaffiliation, Unifor was aggressively raiding a large, 8,000-member local of UNITE HERE in Toronto. Claiming to be defending this principle by seeking to take 8,000 members from another union is hardly credible—it does not look like a principled action.

Unifor is conducting their raid in large part under the cloak of an attack on International Unions. It is somewhat ironic that the former UNITE HERE leader with whom Unifor is now working to raid UNITE HERE, was originally sent to Canada, from the US, by the International Union, and the Trustee at that Local is a Canadian leader from Alberta.

Unions are not good or less good on the basis of whether they are Canadian or International Unions. They have to be judged solely by their actions and their effectiveness in representing their members.

Across the country, in many provinces and localities, activists within the National Union have worked well with Unifor activists on a wide range of issues. We continue to have respect for the many activists of Unifor.

However, the decisions and actions of the Unifor National Executive Board have implications that will be, must be, felt at all levels of Canada’s labour movement.

Unifor told its members that they could remain members of Labour Councils and Federations of Labour, knowing fully well that the CLC Constitution does not provide for this. We can only interpret Unifor’s statements—that their members can stay as members of Federations of Labour and Labour Councils—as a deliberate attempt to create divisions within the labour movement, and as an attempt to deflect responsibility for the effects their decision has had on their activists.

Unless we are careful to act in a principled way to uphold the rules of the labour movement, we risk an internal fight where different Federations or Labour Councils end up fighting with the CLC, and with their affiliates, and even with each other, about what rules they are going to apply. That would create major chaos and animosity, and unnecessary splits within the labour movement.

The problem has been created by the decision by Unifor’s National Executive Board to leave the CLC. The problem is not being caused by a principled and reasonable reaction to that decision.

There is no requirement that we treat all Unifor activists as enemies or pariahs. If they want to remain as allies locally, we can work with them at the provincial or local level. However, they cannot be accorded the same rights as affiliated members. They will be the same as other non-affiliated union members. If they choose to, they can of course work with us to defeat anti-labour attacks. But they can’t do that as full members of the organization that their leadership has pulled them out of.

This situation is difficult for everyone. We are very concerned about the effect of Unifor’s decision on Federations of Labour and on the hundreds of Labour Councils across the country. Activists with Unifor have played a strong and important role in these bodies. Many of these bodies will suffer as a result of the reduced participation and funding that will result from the Unifor decision. But we can’t resolve those concerns by pretending that Unifor is still a member of the CLC, or by pretending that Unifor isn’t openly raiding a CLC affiliate.

The leadership of the Canadian Labour Congress will be meeting over the next week. We will continue to update you as information becomes available.

In solidarity,

Larry Brown                      Elisabeth Ballermann
President                          Secretary-Treasurer

How Dementia Caregivers are Combatting Stress and Isolation through Chorus Groups

Through music, dementia caregivers find community, comfort and healing

Music can be soothing and comforting in many ways. While music is frequently used to calm dementia patients, now an innovative musical chorus is using it to reduce stress for the caregivers of those with dementia.

Dale Lamb1 is 72 years old and a former professional singer who once sang at Carnegie Hall. He now leads choral groups for dementia caregivers and their loved ones.

Together, they sing various genres of music and bond over familiar Broadway tunes. The choral groups give the caregivers an opportunity to meet and create long-lasting memories. The choral groups also help lessen caregiver loneliness and stress.

The chorus Dale Lamb leads was started by Mary Mittelman, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Alzheimer’s disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program. Mittelman discovered what many have about music and dementia: that it has a calming effect and can reduce anxiety. The difference is that she decided to use music to benefit those who provide care instead of for those who receive it.

Although the challenges of dementia caregiving can vary case by case, the effects the disease has on caregivers are largely similar. We conducted a survey of caregivers to determine the emotional costs of dementia caregiving, and found that those who provide care for loved ones with dementia were seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caregiving than those who do not care for loved ones with dementia. This shows the significant need for more support and programs specifically designed for those caring for loved ones with dementia.

How music is helping reduce caregiver stress and worry  

Art, like music, has the power to stimulate feelings of peace and calm. It can provoke positive memories of childhood and family, providing comfort and positive visual stimulation for caregivers. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is piloting an educational program for people with dementia and their caregivers. The purpose is to “…create positive experiences for all participants and to create space where people with dementia and other forms of memory loss can connect with the Gallery’s collection and with their loved ones.”

The program is called “Just Us at the National Gallery of Art2” and takes the form of a bi-weekly guided tour through the galleries. With the help of an educator, it becomes a meditation on a few select paintings in the gallery. Each session features a theme like water scenes, landscapes, or portraits. Participants are invited to share their ideas on the paintings and make observations about what they see. It brings the caregiver and their loved one together in a common space.

Caregivers need ways to reduce stress

In addition to seeking soothing experiences like listening to music, those who provide care for loved ones can practice other techniques to reduce stress. It is important to do so in order to remain an attentive, compassionate caregiver. When exhaustion sets in, apathy can follow and that can impair important caregiving responsibilities. Here are some techniques that can protect the mental, physical and emotional well-being of caregivers:

  • Accept help. You do not need to shoulder all of the responsibilities of caregiving by yourself. It may seem that way, but there is help available. Friends and family members may be able to go grocery shopping or run errands for you. Hiring a professional in-home caregiver will give you a break while knowing that your loved one is well cared for.
  • Be realistic. Don’t set the bar of expectations so high for yourself that it is unattainable. Some days you may be able to cook three meals and do the laundry. Other days you may be able to make a sandwich and spend time watching TV with your loved one. All of that is okay and accepting that will protect your sense of success as you provide care for the long term.
  • Find other caregivers. No one else can understand what your days are like unless they bear the same responsibilities. Search for support groups in your local community. Talking helps to relieve stress and finding those who understand will give you great support.

Caregivers provide important care to loved ones, but it is just as important that they care for themselves too. Stress reducing activities that involve music and art can help. Being patient with yourself and giving yourself credit for the care you provide will go a long way toward reducing stress as well. For more information on ways music is used in dementia care, check out our recent post here.


1: A Former Opera Singer Helps Dementia Patients Find Joy through song
2: Just Us at the National Gallery of Art
Chorus Helps Dementia Patients Caregivers Build Community and Self
Why Music Boosts Brain activity in Dementia Patients

Parking Campaign

The OPSEU Retired Members Division and the Disability caucus have developed a campaign to have parking costs reimbursed for patients who attend the hospital for treatment.

We have developed a petition that will be at various events.  We are asking member retirees to sign the petition. If you would like to help distribute the petition contact the retired member executive for your region listed in the front of Autumn View.

If this edition of autumn view arrives during the election contact the candidates and ask for their commitment to eliminating this financial burden on patients who are suffering from an illness.

If this edition arrives after the provincial election please contact the elected MPP’s to get their commitment to resolve this problem.

Under the Canada Health Act patients are not supposed to suffer a financial burden to receive treatment. For everyone it is a financial burden but for low income people it is significant.

We have talked to many people who have faced this problem or knows someone who has. For example a person may have to attend a hospital for dialysis treatment several times a week for months and years. The financial cost is significant.

Please help solve this problem by signing a petition and or contacting your MPP.

Fraudsters bilk $5.1M from Torontonians in phone scam: police

Phone scam cost Toronto victims over $5M

Toronto police are warning about an ongoing phone fraud originating overseas which has drawn in a handful of Toronto victims.

The Canadian Press 
Published Friday, February 9, 2018 3:51PM EST 
Last Updated Friday, February 9, 2018 5:22PM EST

Toronto police are issuing a warning after a phone fraud scheme recently bilked five people in the city out of a combined $5.1 million, with investigators saying the scam appears to be targeting hundreds of people across the country.

Det. Sgt. Ian Nichol says starting in November, victims began coming forward about receiving calls from a retailer telling them they were the target of credit card fraud.

Police say the caller would remain on the line after telling victims to hang up and call 911 or their bank, exploiting a quirk in landline phone technology that allowed the fraudster to redirect the call seconds later to another impostor claiming to be a police detective or a bank fraud investigator.

Nichol says the fraudster posing as an investigator then allegedly told the victim to withdraw their assets and wire them to another location while the supposed investigation into the purported fraud affecting their credit card was being completed.

Police say victims would then wire their money to an account provided by the fraudsters and were told to keep their activity secret to protect the “investigation” into complicit bank employees.

“It appears to be a true mass marketing scheme in the sense that there are certainly hundreds of thousands of attempts being made,” Nichol said.

Police said there was evidence indicate that in some cases, the callers may already have some of the banking information of the intended victim.

The scheme appears to target owners of landlines, not cellphone users, and there is no evidence to indicate a specific telephone provider has been targeted, police said. There’s also no indication that the age of the victims is a factor, Nichol said.

“There is an effort to convince the victim for a need for secrecy,” Nichol told reporters. “They are persuaded that there is an ongoing bank investigation involving a complicit employee — and this, again, is a fabrication.”

He added the fraudsters would keep calling for several days “to ensure that no efforts are made to recover the money while it’s being withdrawn from wherever it’s sent to.”

Police do not yet have suspect descriptions and Nichol said the Toronto frauds involved a “foreign” element, but did not elaborate.

American law enforcement agencies have been co-operating with Toronto police with the investigation, he said.


Pick a Husband Any Husband

As the hostess at the casino buffet showed me to my table, I asked her to keep an eye out for my husband, who would be joining me momentarily. I started to describe him: “He has gray hair, wears glasses, has a potbelly …”

She stopped me there. “Honey,” she said, “today is seniors day. They all look like that.”

The Problem with Jury Duty

Just as she was celebrating her 80th birthday, our friend received a jury-duty notice. She called the clerk’s office to remind them that she was exempt because of her age. “You need to come in and fill out the exemption forms,” the clerk said. “But I filled them out last year,” she replied. “You have to fill them out every year.”

“Why? Do you think I’m getting younger?”

In Memoriam

Seeing her friend Sally wearing a new locket, Meg asks if there is a memento of some sort inside. “Yes,” says Sally, “a lock of my husband’s hair.”  “But Larry’s still alive.”

“I know, but his hair is gone.”