Autumn View Edition 3, 2016

Autumn View Edition 3, 2016


A Message from the Chair

A recent pre-Labour Day editorial by Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, prompted some thought on the proposed labour reform the Ontario government is considering.

Surely, after some 20 years since the last revisions and the increase and ever- growing use of contract employees, with no benefits and few hours of work, it is time to make things better for the average worker in this province. Further to that, in doing some research to write this piece, I kept running into articles with such scary topics as “How to minimize labour costs and maximize profits” or “Is your workplace sacrificing safety for profit?” These types of considerations further the urgency for labour reform.

The decisions on the reform that the Liberal government makes are vital to make sure your children and your grandchildren have a safe, reasonably paid, and secure job to go to each day.

The government should start by making it easier to join a union, with card-based union certification, mandatory neutral voting sites, electronic voting, and mandatory first contract arbitration. Other necessary changes are successor rights for the contract service worker, and anti-scab legislation to minimize the length and number of strikes.

Most importantly, we need the government to make sure employers offer permanent jobs, not constantly renewing contract after contract. The employee needs to know his/her schedule two weeks in advance, to plan for child and elder care. They also need paid sick leave and not having the fear of losing their job for reporting workplace violations. Further they need to look at raising the minimum wage to match the living wage, to make sure all workers are above the poverty line.

Hopefully the government will listen to these concerns and hopefully your kids and their kids will have a better life and be able to succeed in the workplace.

Ed Faulknor, Chair
OPSEU Retired Members Division

Release Throne Speech: Wynne’s Opportunity to Chart Improved Course for Health Care

Ontario Health Coalition
Posted: September 12, 2016

With today’s Throne Speech, the Wynne government is trying for a fresh start. If this is to succeed, some long-simmering health care issues must be addressed to realign her government’s health policies with the values and priorities of Ontarians.

“More than eight years of austerity budgets in Ontario’s public community hospitals has left a trail of service cuts, longer travel distances for patients and dangerous overcrowding,”  said Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “As a priority, there must be a full moratorium of cuts, and a plan developed to rebuild capacity to meet Ontario’s communities’ needs — that means both a fiscal plan that prioritizes people over Bay Street and financial interests, and a hospital capacity plan that moves money to care and restores services in Ontarians’ home communities.”

Though Ontarians are angry about hospital service cuts, and problems accessing care, on one hand, and exorbitant executive salaries at the very top ranks of public health care institutions, on the other, it is important also to note that we have seen some significant progress in some areas. Health Minister Eric Hoskins has taken on some courageous fights, has re-opened the doors of the Minister’s office, has led in the campaign to achieve a public drug plan for all Canadians, has stopped private clinics, has strongly supported public health care in national and international forums, has begun to reform hospital transparency, and has started to move slightly on the hospital cuts. But there are urgent issues remaining, on which Ontarians need to see this government shift course.

Key Issues:

  • Devastating cuts to hospitals across Ontario must stop — Last spring, the Ontario Health Coalition held a voluntary “referendum” and almost 100,000 people voted to stop the hospital cuts in their towns. In recent months, Health Minister Eric Hoskins has intervened to halt planned cuts in Midland, Wallaceburg, Quinte West and other communities. The Minister’s interventions to save vital community hospital services are helpful and most welcome. But, another round of devastating hospital cuts will be coming if the government does not adopt a funding plan to meet population need for care.

Ontario has had eight consecutive years of hospital funding that has failed to meet the rate of inflation let alone population growth and aging pressures. Our province has plummeted to the bottom of the country in the number of hospital beds left in communities, the number of nurses per patient, and has extraordinary rates of hospital overcrowding. The Wynne government must stop the planned closure of hospitals in Niagara, and restore services that have been cut from Ottawa to North Bay, Orillia to Sault Ste. Marie. There must be a moratorium on hospital cuts and a proper plan developed to meet hospital bed and service capacity needs for our province’s population.

  • Home care reform is crucial to improve access to care and build a public, non-profit home care system — With the proroguing of the Legislature, the home care reform legislation that was introduced last spring has died. It will be re-introduced this fall, possibly with amendments. Any home care reform needs to actually improve access to care for patients. It must stop the privatization of home care and build a stable and effective home care system.
  • Improved access to and care levels in long-term care — As hospital beds continue to be cut, patients are offloaded quicker and sicker. Yet there is no plan to provide enough access to publicly subsidized long-term care to meet population need. Not only are wait times too long but when people get into long-term care homes they find that care levels are insufficient to meet basic human and health care needs. Ontario needs a plan to meet population need for long-term care and to improve care levels so that each resident gets an average minimum of 4 hours of hands-on nursing and personal support per day — a level of care that is found by evidence to reduce harm, improve safety and improve health outcomes.

For more information: contact Natalie Mehar, Ontario Health Coalition, 416-441-2502

Stay Active and Get Involved

As a member of the Retired Members Division in OPSEU we wanted to point out that our constitution (21.3.3) allows all of us to remain active in your local area council and your local district labour council. In fact many OPSEU retired members presently hold executive positions in both these groups but if you just want to stay involved and be part of the discussion that is fine too. The more input and participation our members have the better for the Retired Members Division as a whole. 

The Ontario Health Coalition is always looking for volunteers if you’re interested in helping protect Health Care. The contact info is above.

Half Of Canadians Forced Into Retirement; Union Members, Public Sector Workers Better Off

The Huffington Post Canada
By Daniel Tencer

Nearly half of retired Canadians were forced to leave the workforce earlier than they planned, according to a survey from Angus Reid.

The poll shows working in the public sector or being a union member has its benefits when it comes to retirement. Both those groups reported a lower rate of being forced into early retirement, and a lower likelihood of financial problems.

Forty-eight per cent of all those surveyed said they had to retire “at least partly due to circumstances outside my control,” while 46 per cent said they were able to retire when they planned. Only 6 per cent said they had to keep working longer than they had planned.

But among those retired from the private sector, fully 53 per cent said they were forced to retire early. Among retired union members, that number fell to 45 per cent, and among government workers it was even lower at 41 per cent.

While 8 per cent in the private sector had to work longer than planned, only 4 per cent of government workers had to do so, and only 1 per cent of members of professional associations had to do so.

Retired private-sector workers were twice as likely to report “struggling” to make ends meet (22 per cent of respondents) than those who retired from the public sector (12 per cent).

This “lends considerable credence to arguments about a growing inequity between Canada’s public and private sector workers,” Angus Reid said in the survey.

The survey found nearly half – 48 per cent – of respondents were worried they would outlive their money. But this anxiety is stronger among those not yet retired; 74 per cent of those still in the workforce say they fear outliving their retirement funds.

Canada is seeing an increase in the number of seniors dealing with insolvency. Bankruptcies among seniors have jumped 20.5 per cent since 2010, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcies reports. Ten per cent of personal bankruptcies now take place among those aged 65 and over.

recent study by Russell Investments, looking at private-sector retirement benefits, said the fact Canadians are living longer is putting pressure on retirement pensions. It also said that the recent low interest rate environment means many retirement pensions funds aren’t earning as much as expected, and could therefore face funding shortfalls.

But a recent paper from the C.D. Howe Institute argued concerns about Canadians’ ability to retire are overblown. Most Canadian households are saving enough to be able to live in retirement, the paper said, arguing most households won’t even need the 70 per cent of pre-retirement income that is a rule of thumb for retirement income.

"The greatest challenges come early in … adult lives when the burdens of acquiring a home and supporting young children strain the family budget," the report argued. “After that, it gets easier.”

Despite the concerns about finances, the Angus Reid survey found Canada’s 6.4 million retired people are overall enjoying life post-work.

Eighty-six per cent said they “enjoy having enough time to do the hobbies I have always wanted to do,” while only 16 per cent said they are “bored and have trouble filling [their] days.”

This article was taken from the NUPGE website and was originally published in The Huffington Post Canada.

May 20, 2016

CURC tells committee: reject the TPP

If ratified by the federal government, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will leave tens of thousands of Canadians unemployed; hike prescription drug costs; affect internet freedoms, environmental standards, banking regulation; compromise the rights of local and national governments; and undermine trade union rights.

Representing the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) before the Standing Committee on International Trade, Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville Area Council President Malcolm Buchanan said, “The TPP is not a trade agreement. It is about entrenching and expanding the power and rights of corporations.”

Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville Area Council President Malcolm Buchanan presented on behalf of CURC to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade hearings on the TPP. Joining him was University of Toronto law professor David Schneiderman, who raised concerns about the rights the deal gives corporations to sue governments.

The provisions affecting pharmaceutical drugs are of particular concern to seniors, Buchanan said. He questioned how the federal government will be able to act on its promise to lower drug costs when the TPP will lengthen the time that life-saving drugs can be patented. So-called trade deals can tie the hands of government, he said, noting that Eli-Lilly recently filed a $500 million suit under the North American Free Trade Agreement challenging Canada’s drug patent laws.

CURC wrote to Minister Chrystia Freeland in April expressing these concerns and has received a less than satisfactory response.

Just A Thought

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

A shout out to our OPSEU sisters in seven

In November of 2014, a group of OPSEU sisters from Region 7 created a group  consisting of members who gather together on a monthly basis to help prepare meals at the Shelter House in Thunder Bay. This assembly quickly grew to include OPSEU brothers and anyone having the time to help by volunteering. The Shelter House lacked dishes and cutlery which created long wait lines for people in need of a meal. There was little dignity for these people who waited in line-ups until dishes were washed so they could eat.  OPSEU members recognized the problem and quickly went to work in order to solve it. A campaign was launched and our Region 7 Executive Board Members as well as various locals and Russell Food Equipment Ltd. in Thunder Bay donated approximately $5,000 for the purchase of new dishes and cutlery. Various locals in Region 7 continue to sponsor the monthly meals and without their financial generosity, the commitment to Shelter House in our community would not be possible. New volunteers are always welcome. If you are in Region 7 and are interested in volunteering, please contact Sister Sandra Snider at 807-630-4751. 

In Solidarity
Brenda R. Clapp
Chair OPSEU Region 7, Retired Members Division

Oppose Privatization and Support a Better Ontario

There is much talk on the government’s part these days to privatize anything and everything. The past has clearly shown that this does not work. We end up spending more money and getting less service at a greater price. Please join in the fight and conversation against the sale of, or parts of,Hydro One, the LCBO or Service Ontario.

What happens to RRSPs in bankruptcy

You just declared bankruptcy. What will happen to your registered investment accounts?

The protection provided by Canada’s laws for registered investment products varies by type of account and the nature of the insolvency proceeding. We’ll focus primarily on Ontario.

RRSPs and personal bankruptcy

All provinces protect pensions well. For example, the Insurance Act of Ontario states that if an RRSP has a life insurance component, it is exempt from seizure if the beneficiary is your grandparent, parent, spouse, child or grandchild. This includes plans made up of segregated funds. Prior to 2009, if the beneficiary was the debtor’s estate, these funds would have been at risk. But that year, the federal government changed insolvency laws to provide further protection for RRSPs. Now, funds that have been on deposit for longer than 12 months are protected. However, funds that aren’t otherwise protected by the Insurance Act can be seized if they were deposited in the 12 months immediately before you declared bankruptcy.

If you’ve made contributions to an RRSP in the previous 12 months that are now at risk of seizure, you must either:

  1. request that your bankruptcy trustee arrange for these contributions to be withdrawn (the trustee will be responsible for paying any taxes owing as a result of that withdrawal prior to distribution to creditors); or
  2. pay the trustee the equivalent of the expected realizations, net of taxes, and leave your RRSP intact. You could pay this amount in installments over the term of your bankruptcy.

Unlike RRSPs, other registered accounts (such as RDSPs, RESPs and TFSAs) are not protected from seizure under Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Any protection they may be entitled to are set out in each province’s Executions Acts. In most cases, a trustee is able to claim these assets for creditors (including Ontario). However, Alberta has recently made RESPs creditor-protected.

The federal government recently began a five-year review of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. It’s hoped the result will be enhanced protections for RESPs, RDSPs and other types of registered investment products.

RRSPs and consumer proposals

A consumer proposal differs from bankruptcy by allowing you to negotiate a debt settlement agreement with your creditors. The main benefit is that you can keep your assets.

If you file a consumer proposal, all assets remain in your possession, including TFSAs, RDSPs, RESPs and RRSP contributions from the previous 12 months.

What if you haven’t yet declared bankruptcy, but are in financial trouble?

There are two kinds of debt: secured and unsecured. Secured debts have some form of collateral pledged as surety for the debt. If you default, the lender has the right to sell the collateral. Fortunately, RRSPs can’t be used as collateral.

Debt that’s not supported by collateral is unsecured. In a default, unsecured creditors have the right of set-off (which lets a lender take funds from one account to pay down a debt in another) and recourse through the courts. But it doesn’t apply to registered investment products. So if you owe the bank for a loan, the bank cannot seize your RRSP for repayment.

Recourse through the courts means a lender can sue you to recover the debt. If the lender’s lawsuit is successful, the court will issue a judgment that’s usually followed by a Writ of Execution or a Writ of Seizure. These writs let a creditor seize bank accounts, garnish wages, and register a claim with a sheriff or bailiff. The writs don’t allow the creditor to seize RRSPs, but they may allow the seizure of other registered accounts such as RESPs and RDSPs.

If you’re in financial distress due to unsecured debts, don’t assume your best solution is to liquidate RRSPs or other protected investments. Depending on your situation, debt restructuring through a consumer proposal or perhaps an assignment in bankruptcy (i.e., using a trustee) may make more sense.

There are, though, cases in which selling registered investments to pay off debts and protect other assets that creditors can seize will be the right move.

Written by: Ted Michalos, B.A., CPA, is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and co-founder of Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc. in Ontario, Canada. Article provided by YourAdvisor as educational information only – consult a professional to discuss your personal circumstances.

Léony deGraaf Hastings, CFP, EPC 905-632-9900
Certified Financial Planner 1-800-775-7047
Retirement & Estate Planning Specialist

Estate Pitfalls for Common-Law Partners

You may think legally married and common-law spouses enjoy equal treatment under the law. That isn’t always so. CRA defines a common-law partner as a person of the opposite or same sex to whom you are not legally married, with whom you live in a conjugal (marriage-like) relationship and at least one of the following applies:

  • the person is the natural or adoptive parent of your child;
  • the person has been living in a conjugal relationship with you for at least 12 continuous months; and/or
  • the person has custody and control of your child (or did before the child turned 19) and your child is wholly dependent on that person for support.

Under the tax rules, legally married and common-law couples are treated equally. However, neither the definition of common law under estate law, nor a parity between common-law and legally married couples, extends across the country.

The provinces define common-law relationships and how they’re legally treated. In Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and B.C., a couple may be considered common law after two years of living together. In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, the threshold is three years. When the couple has a child together, a lower threshold applies.

Terminology may vary as well. In Alberta, common-law spouses are referred to as “adult interdependent partners.” And although the term “common law” is frequently used in Ontario and P.E.I., it doesn’t actually appear in their laws. Quebec doesn’t recognize common-law relationships at all. Not only does the definition vary across the country, but so do the legal rights attached to the status. On separation or the death of a partner, common-law partners may not enjoy the same rights as legally married couples.

When a spouse or partner dies

Intestacy rights

British Columbia’s common-law couples now have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. When someone dies without a will, whether he was legally married or common law, his partner is entitled to a share of the estate. The same applies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the remaining provinces, only legally married spouses have the right to a share of the estate on intestacy. Here’s how this may look.

Deirdre and Mark, residents of B.C., have lived together for four years and have a two-year-old daughter. Mark dies without leaving a will. Pursuant to B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA), the assets comprising Mark’s estate (certain assets, such as life insurance and RRSPs/RRIFs/TFSAs with a designated beneficiary and jointly owned property, may not form part of the estate) will be distributed as follows:

  • household furnishings, the first $300,000 of estate assets plus half the balance of the estate go to Deirdre;
  • the balance goes to their daughter.

If Deirdre and Mark were Ontario residents at the time of Mark’s death, the distribution of the estate would be different. It would be governed by Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA), and pursuant to the SLRA, Mark’s estate would be distributed entirely to their daughter.

Under B.C.’s law, “spouse” includes a common-law marriage or a marriage-like relationship for at least two years prior to death. In contrast, for intestate succession purposes, Ontario’s SLRA restricts the meaning of “spouse” to either of two persons who are married to each other.

Nova Scotia law presents a variation. Common-law couples can choose which rights and obligations they wish to assume. Couples can register as domestic partners with the province’s Vital Statistics division. Once they do, they have many of the same rights and obligations as married people, including the division of assets at death. As such, if Deirdre and Mark were Nova Scotians at the time of Mark’s death, Deirdre’s entitlement to Mark’s estate would depend on whether they had registered as domestic partners.

Matrimonial claims

Intestate rights aren’t the only ones where rules differ for legally married and common-law couples. In most provinces, the surviving spouse has the right to make a matrimonial claim against the estate of the deceased spouse. For example, under Ontario’s Family Law Act, a surviving spouse has the right to take his or her entitlement, if any, under the will (or on intestacy), or to make an equalization claim. But only legally married spouses may apply. In most other provinces that provide for matrimonial claims against an estate, such a right does extend to common-law spouses. B.C. does not provide for matrimonial claims.

Even in Ontario, where the rights of common-law spouses are the most circumscribed, other remedies may be available. For example, dependants’ claims and constructive trust claims are open to both legally married and common-law partners. (The definition of dependant may include a parent, child or sibling of the deceased.) Notwithstanding this, while common-law partners may qualify to make a claim in Ontario, they are not afforded the same rights as a legally married spouse.

To further complicate matters, a province may not be consistent in defining “spouse” — even within the same piece of legislation. For example, “spouse” is restricted to someone who is legally married in Part II (Intestate Succession) of the SLRA, yet in Part V (Support of Dependants), “spouse” is defined more broadly to include those both legally married and common law.

Misunderstandings can be costly

What it means to be a spouse continues to evolve.

Common-law couples receive much greater legal recognition now than in decades past, and the expansion of the definition of marriage now includes same-sex couples. However, you shouldn’t assume that common-law status is interchangeable with marriage for all purposes in all provinces.

To avoid unpleasant surprises down the road, understand the rules, rights and obligations of each — during the relationship, on break up and at death — and plan accordingly. Prepare wills and powers of attorney, and periodically review them to ensure they reflect your personal situation.

By Elaine Blades, director of fiduciary services, Scotia Private Client Group.

Courtesy of © 2016 This content is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. Always consult qualified professionals.

Léony deGraaf Hastings, CFP, EPC 905-632-9900
Certified Financial Planner 1-800-775-7047
Retirement & Estate Planning Specialist

Stay Fit and Strong

by Laurie Sweig

Laurie Sweig is a certified personal trainer and Spinning instructor. She is one of the founders of Ottawa’s The Point for Fitness.

#1 Components of Fitness

Hello. How are you? Most of the time we answer with “I’m fine”. That’s the automatic, easy response. Sometimes, behind that “fine” are a number of other adjectives. Tired. Achy. Slow.

There are days when we all feel that way. For some, it is happening so frequently that it is normal. The new normal. Buried in that "normal" are risks. Risks of Heart Disease, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Stroke. And that other risk, the risk of slips and falls.

Wouldn't it be great if there were a magic fix for all of this? Sure it would, but there isn't. There isn't a magic pill, and there isn't one activity that we can do to get us into shape. Being physically fit requires a holistic approach that includes 5 components of fitness. 

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Nutrition
  • Rest

Each one is as important as the other. They all require equal attention for us to feel our best. 

It is a balancing act, but it doesn't take as much time or energy as we may think. The best part is that the healthier we are the more efficient we are. But we know this already, don’t we? So why don’t we change? The biggest reason is that bad habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to maintain! It’s so much easier to do what we are already doing. It was Albert Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 

So, here we are. At the fork in the road. You have read this far, now what? Chances are, you have all of the information that you need to make the change. You know about parking a little further from your destination and walking that extra distance. You know about eating your fruits and vegetables. How about getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night? You know about that one too, don’t you? Still, it’s hard. 

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” ~ Robin Sharma

Start small. Over the next week, walk a few extra steps. Or add some vegetable you like to more of your meals. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier. Build from there. We are creatures of habit. Change doesn’t come easy. But it will happen.

Something to think about.

#2 Strength

Push-ups are awesome! They can be done anywhere. All types are effective. At the wall, on your knees, or on your toes. They can be simple or fancy – think of the one-arm push-ups that Sylvester Stallone did in one of the many Rocky movies.

The best part is that push-ups build strength! They are a compound exercise, and that means that they work more than one muscle at a time, unlike the bicep curl that only works, you guessed it, the bicep. That is known as an isolation exercise. Not as effective when it comes to overall strength. And kind of a waste of time. 

Different from cardio exercises (walking/running) that strengthen the heart and improve circulation, weight/strength/resistance training targets various muscle groups of the body. Many people like to use weight machines. Some folks like to use free weights (barbell/dumbbells). And of late, there has been a trend back to body weight exercises (did someone say “push-ups”?). 

"Use it or lose it." ~ Jimmy Connors

Regardless of the method, it is imperative to keep our bodies strong. By not moving, our nerves and muscles stop communicating and we lose motor skills. By putting ourselves through a series of activities that connection stays strong – or can actually be rejuvenated. That is how amazing the human body is. Just because you may have lost it, doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.

If you’re not doing anything at the moment, try adding a few push-ups to your day. At the wall, from your knees or your toes – it doesn’t matter. You will get stronger. That is for sure.

Something to think about.

Health Coalition Calls for Streamlined Public Home Care System

Raises Questions About Lack of Transparency in Contracted Home Care Companies 

Toronto – Ontario’s Auditor General released a thorough and thoughtful review of the Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) that reveals in detail how impossibly complex the home care system in Ontario has become.

In the preamble to her report, Ontario’s Auditor calls for a full review of home care that addresses the structural problems in the system. This recommendation has been repeatedly made by Ontario Auditors over the last decade. The Ontario Health Coalition agrees with this urgent need, and calls on the Minister to protect the public interest by ensuring that there are full public hearings and a process that limits the disproportionate power that provider companies have in policy reform for home care.

“There is a very real risk that a significant proportion of our home care system could be privatized to the for-profit home care chain corporations, under the panel report on home care commissioned by the Minister of Health last year,” warned Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “But the evidence provided by today’s special audit should highlight not only the well-known problems in the CCACs but also the problems inherent in a contracting and sub-contracting system, and the profit-taking and lack of public accountability of private home care corporations.”

The coalition has called for a streamlined public non-profit home care system based on public interest principles, with reformed CCACs, better democratic input and stronger accountability, a cultural change to reflect the values and priorities of Ontarians, and stronger standards to improve care. The Coalition’s recommendations and findings based on a province-wide consultation on home care can be accessed on our website:

If there is anything missing from today’s Special Report, it is the data on performance of the contracted companies that provide home care. While the Auditor did a thorough investigation of CCAC direct program provision and measured its effectiveness, she did not report on her findings regarding key indicators of quality and performance for the private companies that are contracted to provide services. We hope this information will be in the full audit released later this fall. The rate of missed visits by provider companies, for example, is mentioned in the report but no numbers are provided. One of the key complaints that the Health Coalition has received is that frequently no one shows up to provide home care for scheduled visits, leaving home care clients without needed care, sometimes without any ability to get out of bed and get help. Other key problems are: long waits to get care from contracted companies, high turnover of caregivers leading to poor care, and unresponsiveness to complaints about missed visits or poor care. These issues were not covered in today’s Special Audit which was guided by a specific mandate given to it by the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature. But they are crucial in assessing the future structures that should help shape our home care system.

“The Auditor’s findings underline how impossibly complex and bureaucratic Ontario’s home care system is, mainly as a result of the structures that were set up almost two decades ago to facilitate home care privatization and competitive bidding,” noted Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “While governments have tinkered with the structures, they have never had the principles nor the political will to fundamentally reform home care.”

“Despite massive political pressure from patients and advocates who have repeatedly pointed out that this system is overly bureaucratic, does not work for patients or careworkers, and shunts hundreds of millions of dollars per year away from care to redundant administration and profit-taking, the power of the lobby of the provider companies has stymied repeated attempts to win home care reform that might reduce their profits or market share, even if that reform would result in better public accountability and more funding going to actual care,” she reported.

If we are going to win home care that works for patients and stabilizes the home care workforce, we need an open process that balances the power of the home care corporations.

For more information: Natalie Mehra 416-441-2502 (office)

Preventing Loneliness in Seniors 

Posted on June 9, 2016

Currently, about seven percent of older adults over the age of 60 suffer from clinical depression, though the condition is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many older adults experience intense feelings of loneliness due to being socially isolated, even when they wish to socialize and be surrounded by others. Older adults often enjoy sharing stories and other life experiences with others, some of which may even be considered inspiring, so it is important to reach out to senior loved ones and make an effort to spend time with them.

Social isolation can stem from major events or changes in lifestyle. When older adults experience the loss of a spouse, they may withdraw and have decreased contact with others, perpetuating feelings of isolation and loneliness. Those who are experiencing the physical decline that comes with aging may feel limited and defeated as they grieve their loss of autonomy. Although this can compound a sense of loneliness, there are still ways to promote independence and prevent social isolation, such as scheduling regular social activities, visiting the local senior center or hiring a professional caregiver.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that feelings of loneliness can account for the start of a descent in both mental and physical well-being for up to sixty percent of older adults who have described themselves as lonely. Much progress has been made in the identification of the needs of aging adults, and while technology has made tremendous advancements in the past two decades, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. A canine companion may make a significant difference but engagement with other people invigorates the human spirit and helps combat loneliness the most.

Adults who can no longer drive may feel as though they have lost their sense of freedom. However, companionship care can allow the caregiver to bridge a relationship with an older person and the outside world. By providing transportation for the client to routine doctors’ appointments, errands or fun days out, the caregiver grants the opportunity for the client to continue actively engaging with the world.

Companionship care may alleviate anxiety the client was previously experiencing by giving them the flexibility to control their own calendar. This benefit alone can help in the struggle against loneliness, as the person can choose which activities to participate in and when.C

Caregivers can also reintroduce light physical activity, like walks or stretching, which helps keep muscles, bones and blood circulation functioning, as well make meals fun by encouraging conversation and engagement.

Having a caregiver is not the end of independence but rather the start of taking advantage of an important service intended to extend and enhance one’s quality of life. For more tips on combatting loneliness, visit our blog “Staying Social in Your 60’s and Beyond”.


Travel Tips for Seniors

Posted on July 14, 2016

Remember the summer vacations your parents took you on when you were younger? Giving back by taking the time to travel with your loved one can be a great present. Although some seniors may be independent enough to take care of the daily essentials, many don’t regularly leave home, their assisted living center or nursing home, apart from holidays and special events. Even though an experienced caregiver can help get a senior out of the house, it may be up to family and friends to coordinate fun travels outside of daily routines.

The trip can be a stay-cation, which is a day trip to an art venue, park or other local tourist attraction, or a longer holiday further away or abroad. No matter what the travel plans may be, here are some suggestions to consider in order make the experience as comfortable as possible for an aging loved one – and everyone else!

  • Plan for rest breaks. If you’re traveling by car and anticipate a lengthy drive, plan out rest stops on a map or look for hotels to stay at along the way and reserve them in advance. Even if the drive takes less than a day, plan on pulling over once every two to three hours at rest stops or restaurants to allow for bathroom or snack breaks and the opportunity to stretch the legs.
  • Enjoy the drive. If there are points of interest or scenic views along the way, stop to look at them. Take photographs to capture the memory! For loved ones that aren’t as technologically savvy, remember to print hard copies of photos once the trip is over.
  • Embrace the familiar spots. Most of us are comfortable with certain routines and have particular loyalties. The same goes for the aging. If your father loves a certain restaurant or type of food, try to find something close near your destination to provide him a familiar place away from home. And if your mother has a specific sleeping schedule, help her keep up regular routines by planning accordingly.
  • Music for the drive. Is your loved one a fan of country-western music, or do they prefer classical? Bring some CDs of his or her favorite artist to soothe or invigorate the driving experience.
  • Talk about their past. Help your loved one recall fond memories by asking them questions about their youth. The drive is a nice opportunity to connect with your loved one and reminiscing actually engages the brain, too!

Need ideas for day trips? Try going for a Sunday drive on a scenic route, or visit a zoo, the beach or other friends and relatives! These tips and ideas can assist in getting an older person out of the home and engaged with the community around them. Ask your loved one for new destination ideas that they will enjoy or locations he or she has appreciated before. For more travel tips, read “8 Tips for Traveling with a Senior Loved One”. Wherever your journey takes you and your loved one, be sure to plan for all contingencies, be patient, and enjoy this precious opportunity to make lasting, loving memories together.

Planet Boomer


By Jim Herrier and Ellen Ma

Is One Million Dollars Enough to Retire on?

It used to be. Now, with people living longer, children costing more money and staying around the home longer and interest rates on saved funds still very low, it will provide a subsistence life at best.  Even adding CPP and Old Age supplements, it isn’t enough for a retired life of comfort like you deserve.  You can, if it is allowed, work longer than the traditional 65, but for many, that isn’t the life they saw for themselves.  Then, there is your house.  Many, if not most Canadians, have paid off their house by the time they reach 60. With the Canadian housing boom (or bubble) they have likely seen dramatic growth in home values over the last 10-15 years.  And that growth is not taxable if it is your principle residence. How do you leverage that asset?  Many downsize seeking a smaller property or condo and banking the remainder.  Good plan.  At Planet Boomer we believe there is another course, one that will provide a high quality of life for less of your money.  That is a full or part-time retirement in a Southeast Asian country.

In our travels across South Asia we have met and interviewed over 100 people, expats from all over the world who decided to embark on a new direction living full or part time in Thailand or Malaysia or Vietnam. There, their dollars go SO much farther.  Rents are a fraction of what they see at home, day-to-day cost of living is too, medical care in many areas isn’t just good enough it is often better than we get at home.  And, you live under sun-kissed skies on or near white sand beaches with thousands of just slightly adventurous people just like you.

If you continue to work, chances are the income you earn is non-taxable if the work isn’t done in your new country of residence. That does require declaring non-residency in Canada to avoid Canadian taxes, but it has no impact on your citizenship, your ability to be paid the pension benefits you’ve earned, or your love of our country.

For retirees of any age who are looking down the barrel of a fixed income, would it not be attractive to see your cost base 50 per cent lower year round or even 6 months a year? Canada allows you to remain out of the country for 186 days a year and still retain provincial medical, contribute to RRSP’s and pay taxes of course.

We admit a decision like this to go offshore isn’t emotionally practical for everybody. However, it is economically practical for anyone who wants more out of their retirement, for less.

I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose fitting clothing. If I HAD any loose fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place!

Your rights when starting home renovations or repairs

Help protect yourself and your home by knowing your rights before starting a home renovation. Learn how to hire a reliable contractor and see what you need to include in your contract with them.

Hiring a contractor

When you are looking to hire a contractor make sure to:

  • make a list of exactly what you want done. Remember that changing plans in the middle of a project will cost extra money
  • set a clear budget
  • ask for recommendations from friends and neighbours
  • consider dealing with a local company. This may make it easier to check references, enforce a warranty or have follow-up work done
  • get written estimates from at least 3 contractors
  • never accept an estimate over the phone or without the contractor inspecting the area 
  • remember that good contractors ask a lot of questions so they can understand and plan out the project. For example, in driveway paving, they should ask if any heavy vehicles will be parked on the driveway
  • not go for a deal that sounds too good to be true!

If it’s a major project, you might need an architect or engineer to draw up plans and give direction. You will also likely have to get a building permit. Ask your city or town hall how much building permits cost and how to get them.

Learn about common home renovation scams.

Checking references 

Always get at least 3 references and check them, even if someone you know has recommended the contractor to you. Make sure each reference is from someone who has dealt with the contractor personally.

Get references from people who had work done that is similar to the project you have in mind.

Also, get references both from the recent past and further back in time. Sometimes, problems do not show up for a while. For example, you often don’t see problems in roofing or paving for about a year or more after a project is done.

Once you have a contractor in mind

A single business operator may run several businesses or change the name of a business. So remember to search for the business and the business operator’s name: 

Before you sign a contract for home renovations or repairs, make sure you:

  • keep down-payments to a minimum (we recommend no more than 10 per cent)
  • never pay the full amount of the contract before the work is done. This will help ensure that the contractor will finish the job. It will also protect you from losing money if the company goes out of business or declares bankruptcy before finishing your project
  • talk to your contractor about how you will deal with any disagreements or disputes. Ideally, this should be addressed in your contract  
  • check warranties and guarantees carefully. But remember that the contractor’s reputation and length of time in business are more important than a warranty or guarantee
  • avoid cash deals. Reputable companies meet all legal requirements, like charging and paying applicable taxes. If you do pay in cash, make sure that you get a detailed, signed receipt from the contractor
  • if a contractor offers you financing, it may be wiser to arrange your own

This article was taken from the Government of Ontario website.

“Hollywood must be the only place on earth where you can be fired by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap.”
– Steve Martin

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.”
– David Letterman

“I've been married to a communist and a fascist, and neither would take out the garbage.”
– Zsa Zsa Gabor

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