Oh Dear! We are receiving more questions than we anticipated. We will have to combine a number of them on the same topic into one larger question. We didn't want have our political parties answering more than three or four questions a week.
Our first question is from a number of Seniors' groups. Here's what they sent us.
Dear Martha and Henry,
Following is a question of all the Provincial political leaders asked as a part of the beloved and cherished democratic process we have struggled over the years to establish in our country and province; - i.e., the electoral process. My hope is that all the Provincial political leaders will respond because they value and honour that process.
A "Circle of Chairs" of Alberta seniors' advocacy groups has developed a paper asking that the Province establish an Independent Seniors Advocate (ISA) to be of assistance to seniors in Alberta who are in distress, whatever the nature of that distress. The essence of the paper is as follows:
This paper states that there are at least nineteen Provincial Departments involved in seniors’ matters. A senior in distress who phones for help is often necessarily referred to other Departments. Seniors seeking such help, while in distress, are also often short on energy, hearing impaired and sometimes have trouble being understood on the phone because English is not their first language. Not infrequently they are frustrated to the point of tears with the process.
This paper proposes the establishment of an Independent Seniors’ Advocate (ISA) and an Office of the Independent Seniors’ Advocate (OSA). The ISA would be an officer of the Legislative Assembly such as, for example, the Auditor General or Ombudsman. She or he would have a very small permanent staff. In addition to the ISA, there would one professional responsible for collecting and continually updating the considerable and impressive resources that are already available Provincially, Federally, and locally to assist seniors in distress. A second professional would be responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying a corps of seniors, called Seniors’ Advocate Elders (SAEs). The SAEs would be paid honouria and expenses to be the field officers of the ISA. They would visit seniors in distress, listen to their stories and shepherd them in seeking existing resources to relieve their distress. The corps of Elders would be more economical than permanent staff, can easily be expanded or contracted, and would be dispersed throughout the Province.
In addition to this individual advocacy work, the ISA would have two other critical roles. A second function would be to refer cases of administrative unfairness to the Ombudsman, or, where evidence of irregularities warrant, to the Police, Human Rights, or Privacy Commissioner. The third role would be to identify evidence grounded deficiencies or gaps in services to assist seniors in distress and advocate for eliminating those deficiencies whatever the level of government. The anticipated budget is $1,290,000 per year.
Paper’s Intention: That the newly elected Government of Alberta establish an Independent Seniors’ Advocate and an Office of the Seniors’ Advocate with the characteristics and capabilities outlined in this paper. The Circle of Chairpersons wishes to be consulted in the development of this initiative.
Jerry Pitts, President, Coalition of Seniors’ Advocates (COSA)
Irl Miller, Chair, Seniors’ One Voice
Wanda Cree, Chair, Seniors’ Health Council
Helen Lusk , Chair of Westend Seniors
Peter Stewart, Chair, Edmonton Branch, Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP)
Bev McKay, Founding Chair, Families Allied to Influence Responsible Eldercare (FAIRE)
Brian Staples, Chair, Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team (SALT)
The paper, with a cover letter, was sent to the Party leaders on 20 October, 2004. The question asked then and reiterated now is:
Will you, as an individual and the leader of your party, endorse our proposal in principle, and work with the Circle of Chairs to secure the establishment of an Independent Seniors' Advocate?
We sincerely hope our political parties will find the time in their busy campaign schedule to answer our questions. We look forward to their responses. Remember dear reader to sent us your thoughts by posting a comment below or by sending us e-mail.