After a great year of meeting with seniors from across the province to discuss issues that matter to them, I am looking forward to getting back to work in the Legislature advocating for seniors. As the Wildrose Official Opposition Seniors Critic, I am proud to be bringing forward a bill this fall that will help protect seniors in their golden years.
Bill 208, the Seniors’ Advocate Act, will create a Seniors’ Advocate as an office of the legislature, which is independent of political interests and can represent the views of seniors. The Seniors’ Advocate will stand up for the rights and interests of all seniors.
Since being appointed Seniors Critic, I have heard loud and clear that seniors face some of the most daunting challenges in Alberta. For instance, Alberta Health Services used to have a “divorce-by-nursing-home” policy that would see married couples in long term care split up for bureaucratic convenience. Not only was it unfair to seniors, it placed a tremendous burden on families, as loved ones could be sent as far away as 100 km. from where they have lived all their lives.
Thankfully, pressure from seniors and the Official Opposition forced government to revisit the policy and reduce the distance seniors can be sent from their homes. However, the policy should still be scrapped altogether.
A Seniors’ Advocate could help by representing seniors from around the province in the legislature, by highlighting policy problems and demanding timely solutions.
In another instance, the Associate Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health stood by their previous one-bath-per-week policy. This policy degraded our seniors. With pressure from the Official Opposition and the media, this policy too was revisited.
There has got to be a better way to address seniors concerns in a timely manner rather than having to fight tooth and nail every time a bad policy emerges.
I believe a Seniors’ Advocate will keep Alberta Health Services’ treatment of seniors in check, as well as provide a strong advocate for seniors in long-term care.
The Seniors’ Advocate’s other duties would include assisting in appealing or reviewing a decision relating to long-term care or residential care, representing seniors under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, or advocating on any other regulated matter. The Seniors’ Advocate could also investigate any systemic issues arising from a serious injury or other problems if warranted.
Last winter I spent two weeks touring Alberta listening to seniors and their concerns. Seniors I met with overwhelmingly supported the idea of creating a Seniors’ Advocate to stand up for their rights and to represent their interests.
With the need for a Seniors’ Advocate so apparent, supporting Bill 208 is clearly not a partisan matter. I ask all Albertans, young and aging, to urge the government to support Bill 208 in the legislature this fall.
The Seniors’ Advocate is a part of building a better Alberta, and I hope to achieve all-party support in creating the office of the Seniors’ Advocate to be a strong voice for seniors.