Question Period Highlight – cuts to seniors’ program

October 8, 2014

Your NDP MLAs are hard at work in the legislature this fall, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including job loses since Stephen McNeil became Premier, and how the Liberals’ health board amalgamation distraction is causing their government to take their eye off what really matters – front line care. Here is a question Denise Peterson-Rafuse asked Leo Glavine about cuts to an independent living program.

DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: On September 9th of this year, low-income seniors living with disabilities received a letter from the South Shore District Health Authority – and I will table that letter – informing them that funding through independent living services for activities like snow removal, food preparation, lawn mowing and transportation to medical appointments was being capped at $500 per year.

Mr. Speaker, this letter came as a shock to the recipients, who were previously told they were eligible for up to $500 a month. My question for the minister is, given his government’s commitment to help seniors stay in their homes longer, why is the funding for this program suddenly being capped?

LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, this is a program that is serving Nova Scotia seniors very well at the moment and I can assure the member opposite that it will be kept in place.

DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Well, Mr. Speaker, that’s not what I asked. I asked about why it was capped. So I’ll go forward.

Mr. Speaker, Helena Teal-Facey is a 77-year-old lady and she lives on a fixed income. Helena suffers from a heart condition and she cares for her husband who is a double amputee. When Helena received the letter, through no fault of her own, she had already spent her entire allowance. As a result, she now must choose between paying for needed household services or buying food.

Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the minister is, can the minister tell this House what other options are available to Ms. Facey and others like her to overcome this sudden loss of financial support?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I know that at the department, we have not received correspondence explaining what has taken place. I know this is a program that is valued by seniors and we will keep it in place.

DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that he will receive letters from seniors about what has taken place in their lives so he can address them.

Mr. Speaker, because of a loss of funding, Helena literally doesn’t know how she’s going to keep her husband’s wheelchair ramp clear of snow this winter. I actually found out today that her husband, who used to use this also for medical transportation, tried to get to an appointment and fell out of his wheelchair.

To say the least, this sudden policy change has pulled the rug out from under seniors already struggling to make ends meet. My question to the minister is, will he direct his department to ensure these seniors living along the South Shore of Nova Scotia can receive the funding that they were promised so they can get through this winter?

MR. GLAVINE: What I can assure the member opposite is that we will look into this program, sometimes it’s a case of oversubscribing and there is a set amount of money that would be distributed among seniors – but I am prepared to take a look at why this particular family has been hit by this notice.