Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Letter to Premier Klein from SUN 

Here is a letter sent to Premier Klein from Ireen Slater, St.Albert Chair & Regional Coordinator for SENIORS UNITED NOW (SUN). The Premiers response will be posted when it is received. Please check PRATS (Politicians Response and Tracking System) for the Premier's record to date.

March 9, 2004

Hon. Ralph Klein, Premier
Government of Alberta
#307 - 10800 97th Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B7

Dear Premier Klein:

On behalf of the St. Albert members of Seniors United Now, I would like to draw your attention to the concerns of seniors in this province. Despite attempts by various groups and advocates of seniors to illicit some response we have been consistently ignored.

Since 1994 seniors have patiently awaited a return of the benefits that were taken away at that time. Other programs cut have since been restored, and even MLA’s have received an increase in pay. To date seniors have received nothing back, the cost of living continues to increase, yet our incomes remain fixed and the plight of many has deteriorated to crisis level. Those fortunate enough to have been able to prepare financially for retirement are finding that what they thought was sufficient is now woefully inadequate. Others who through life circumstances were limited in their ability to save are finding their quality of life seriously diminished in their declining years. We are told that seniors were consulted before the cuts but to what extent this was done is questionable. Regardless after ten years this is hardly relevant. The following is a quick review of what was lost and how this has affected seniors.
In total $672 million was taken away from seniors including:

* $480 per year for regular dental care
* assistance with dentures, hearing aids, eye glasses
* free health care premiums
* help to pay municipal taxes
* physiotherapy (greatly limited now)
* rental rebates
* home repair grants of up to $4,000
* assistance with home care needs (greatly limited)
* seniors receiving OAS and GIS cut by up to $95
* assistance for owners of low cost housing (decreasing this type of housing available to seniors)

In addition the cost of utilities has increased due to deregulation, long-term care and seniors lodges has been increased up to 48%, the cost of medications risen by 200%. Staff reductions in the medical field, the trend towards privatization, and the lack of standardized care in seniors’ homes have all had negative affects on seniors’ care. Cutoff levels for assistance are unrealistic creating a whole new level of poverty for the elderly. Studies show that privatization is not the answer and that an adequately supported public health system is self sustaining. A recent study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that in the past 10 years Alberta spent less on health care than any province as a share of the GDP increasing only by 1.5% to 2% per year.

In the early 1990’s, you appealed to us to help reduce the deficit, with the reassurance that things would be restored when the economy improved. At the same time the oil companies, a primary source of revenue for this province, had their royalties, taxes and other costs reduced. The loss of these royalties has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in the last 10 years, and while the oil companies flourished, the social systems struggled. One wonders how the disenfranchised feel about funding the oil companies? You have responded to some degree to strong pressure from the more powerful education and health systems, but seniors continue to be ignored, despite Alberta’s current wealth. Sadly, for some, any help now will come too late, as the loss of revenue over the years, and the affect on their well being can never be restored.

What then are the affects? To enjoy a healthy and balanced lifestyle one needs adequate finances, healthy teeth to maintain good nutrition, proper eye wear to avoid accidents, drive a car, read etc., ongoing physiotherapy to maintain a healthy body and to enjoy a good quality of life without pain, hearing aids to avoid isolation, and enjoy social activities, and supports to remain in one’s home if this is desirable. Prevention is key, and more cost effective than critical care. The lack of these supports can result in depression, fear, poor nutrition, social isolation, loss of dignity, dependency on prescription drugs or alcohol, stress and the risk of abuse of the elderly who may be dependent on family for financial, physical or emotional support. Perhaps even suicide.

Government representatives have consistently defended the Government’s inaction by stating that seniors most in need are receiving assistance, implying that the rest of seniors are being greedy, and a drain on society. The facts are that the senior population of Alberta remains at 10%. 60% have an income of $20,000 or less, and many of these are just above the income cut off level for assistance. Only 7% of seniors have an income of $50,000 per year. Only 4% are in long-term care, and the rest are in their own homes, or renting. Seniors are healthier, live longer and continue to make significant contributions to their communities in the business and volunteer sector. They have helped to build this province through hard work and deserve some respect in their latter years. Many women worked in the home, some on the farm and volunteered their time giving them little opportunity to build their own financial independence. Women remain among the poorest in the country especially as they age. The recent “Speech from the Throne” did nothing to reassure us that we would be seeing any changes to government policy any time soon. Any reference to seniors focused on the cost of the upcoming generation of baby boomers. This seems irrelevant given that the majority of baby boomers are two income families, who have had more opportunity to build their financial resources, pay taxes and will continue to do so.

In conclusion, Mr. Premier, we urge that you show the senior citizens of this province that your Government cares about their welfare. We ask for the immediate restoration of all lost benefits, taking into consideration the increased cost of living over the past 10 years. It is essential that any policies being developed affecting seniors be done with the full consultation of seniors’ advocates, and professionals working with the elderly. Be assured that seniors groups are gaining momentum and are ready to fight for their rights. We respectfully request an early response.


Ireen Slater, St.Albert Chair,
Regional Coordinator for SENIORS UNITED NOW (SUN)

Cc Mary O’Neill, MLA
Doug Horner, MLA

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