NDP

Question Period Highlights – Seniors

December 13, 2013


Your NDP MLAs were hard at work in the legislature this week, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including provincial support for an expanded Canada Pension Plan, the proposed $10 million cut to Community Services, and moving the Department of Seniors into the Department of Health.

Below is a passage from Hansard, the official record of the Nova Scotia legislature, on the Liberals moving the Department of Seniors into the Department of Health.


SENIORS: BUDGET CUTS – ADVISABILITY

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Seniors. The Liberals promised a 1 per cent cut, which results in $44 million per year to almost every single government department, including the Department of Seniors. In Nova Scotia we have about 1,000 Nova Scotians turning 65 years of age each month. In fact, the number of seniors in Nova Scotia is expected to double by 2026.

My question to the minister is, does the minister think it makes sense to be cutting funding from the seniors’ budget when more and more seniors actually need government help?

HON. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that when our Continuing Care Strategy comes out and how much it will further embrace seniors and looking after them, she will see that the $28 million being cut across departments won’t have any effect on seniors.

MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Thank you to the minister for that. I’m very glad to know that there will be no budget cuts that affect seniors in Nova Scotia. While going door to door, however, seniors I talked to were actually pleased about the fact that there was a commitment to financially assist seniors with hearing aids that couldn’t afford those hearing aids, and it’s a big problem throughout the province. Can the minister tell low-income seniors in Nova Scotia whether or not they will be able to purchase hearing aids with the help of the program that was promised?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the member opposite is that the details of what we will be doing around seniors’ programs for the future will definitely have to wait until we’re into a new budget year. There was no allotment put forward for this year, and all those programs we’ll be taking a look at, and some cost analysis of whether it is possible to do.

MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Thank you very much, minister. I certainly hope that that answer didn’t mean no, because my understanding is that during the election, the candidates for the Liberals had told people throughout the province that they were going to keep with commitments that were coming forth from the government. I would like to also talk about the fact that hearing properly is so important to seniors, for them to be able to participate more fully in society and interact with their loved ones, their families. So it certainly does enhance their quality of life. And also, not being able to hear properly is a health and safety issue.

So I’d like to ask the minister, will the minister ensure that his government stands up for low-income seniors just like they have been doing for Nova Scotian senators?

MR. GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the member opposite is that seniors will be prominent during our time in government. We’re moving the Department of Seniors in with Health and Wellness so that their needs, as they move through the advanced years and more frail years, that their health needs, in a full way, will be given every consideration.

HEALTH & WELLNESS – SENIORS DEPT. ELIMINATION:

GROUP OF IX – CONSULT

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the honourable Minister of Health and Wellness, also responsible for the Department of Seniors. Yesterday the Minister of Health and Wellness said there was some consideration being given to rolling the Department of Seniors into the Department of Health and Wellness, and today I believe he said that, in fact, that was going to occur.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Health and Wellness is really quite simple, has there been any consultation with the seniors’ organizations, the Group of IX, with respect to the elimination of the Department of Seniors?

HON. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, maybe I needed to provide a little bit more clarity there. One of the areas that seniors now feel a great need to speak often about is their health and wellness issues. So when I’m talking about moving the Department of Seniors, it is having the department actually within the Department of Health and Wellness so that we can have greater lines of communication, greater opportunities for them to be able to raise their urgent needs as well as long-term planning for continuing care. So in actuality, the Group of IX, the department will have a greater voice and greater opportunity to present their needs to the minister.

MS. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I didn’t hear about any consultation having occurred with the Group of IX. I want to ask the minister, what assurance can he give this House that seniors’ voice will not be lost in the vast Department of Health and Wellness?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite. It is an important question. I think the fact that we put right at the top of our agenda that we would review and refocus the Continuing Care Strategy – it’s one that within the first 100 days, in January, we will have several . . . (Question Period ends)