Published 10 February 2009, Telegraph-Journal

Let seniors live independently
Seniors want to live independently and remain in their own homes for as long as possible. This should be their choice.
I am aware of many seniors who were in the hospital and after having surgery on their hip or leg, and with other medical issues, were advised to move to a special-care home or a nursing home, but resisted doing so. Today these seniors are back in their homes living independently.

We need to be mindful that as we get older, it takes longer for the healing process to take effect. In such conditions, seniors that go to a nursing home or a special care home are not happy, for the most part, because this, they feel, is not what they need at this particular point and time in their lives. Consequently they tend to lose interest.

On the other hand, active living and aging in their own place improves health and wellness. Home Support workers provide quality comfort so they can live independently. As such, seniors live happier, more productive and satisfactory lives.

So why not provide these workers with good working conditions, worthy wages, good benefits with a pension plan and training? All of this coupled together surely adds up to higher levels of quality care for our seniors.

Executive Director, Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights

Published Saturday January 24th, 2009

Helping seniors remain at home part of long-term solution, say experts

By Mary MoszynskiTimes & Transcript Staff

FREDERICTON - More than 25 years ago, Brenda Robertson realized something needed to be done to control spiraling health-care costs while giving New Brunswickers, particularly seniors, the care they needed regardless of where they lived.

The solution was the province's extramural hospital program, an initiative that was lauded across the country as being an innovative success.Now, as the provincial government grapples with changing demographics and an aging population, many say the answer to providing long-term care and balancing costs is to focus on helping seniors remain at home.

I really, really think the services of the future in health care are going to be in the home and, of course, tertiary care in the hospitals," said Robertson, who served as health minister under former Conservative premier Richard Hatfield and was the province's first female MLA.

The extra-mural program, referred to by those involved in the program as the "hospital without walls," provides health care to New Brunswickers in their homes.Instead of having to visit a hospital, or move to a special-care home or nursing home, seniors involved in the program can receive visits from nurses, dietitians and other health-care workers and receive services such as acute care, palliative care, home oxygen programs and rehabilitation services.

Under "the extra-mural hospital as it was known, you could deliver that health service, which really was superior to in-house, shall we say, for a fraction of what it would cost," said Robertson.

It means seniors not only get to remain in their own homes longer, but government also reaps the savings from avoiding more seniors staying in hospitals or nursing homes, says Ralph Smith, president of the New Brunswick Seniors' Federation.

"It reduces the people requiring further care, whether it be in long-term care or nursing homes. It is a real cost benefit as far as the province goes," said Smith. "Seniors like to remain in their own community, in their own environment and their own home as long as possible and that is basically the plus-plus for the program.

"A 2006 report states the Department of Health spends roughly $54 million, or three per cent of the department's total budget, on the program.The majority of clients are over the age of 65.

In 2005-2006, roughly 19,000 clients were discharged from the program. A total of 439,711 visits from health-care professionals were conducted that year.

All residents are eligible for some support if referred by a physician. Physicians also play a role in the program and are paid on a fee-for-service basis for home visits, consultations and admissions."As far as the extra-mural program itself, I think it's still accomplishing what it wanted to accomplish, which is enabling seniors to be released from hospital as early as possible and be enabled to be treated for follow up in their own home," said Smith.

Robertson, the architect of the extra-mural program, said New Brunswick developed the program after officials visited New Zealand. New Zealand started its extra-mural program to deal with the lack of hospitals following the Second World War, she said.

"The problem we were looking at was the only place people had to go was the hospital, so we developed a program to go to the home and the doctors would admit to the extra-mural program directly from the doctor's office," said Robertson.

"They skipped the hospitals altogether."When the program was first created, it was not under the jurisdiction of any hospital or health authority. The program had its own hospital board and was in charge of hiring, policies and supervision.

That changed a number of years ago and regional health authorities are now responsible for d

"The staff was then administered by the management of the regional hospitals, rather than administered by their own management and I think it lost a lot of its benefits. I would like to see the extra-mural returned to its original form."Health Minister Mike Murphy said he's heard that argument before, but isn't looking at changing the structure of the program.However, the provincial government is looking at a variety ways to deliver health care closer to people's homes, he said.

"Extramural certainly is a far more economical and efficient way of looking after seniors in their homes. I think one of the main components to maintenance of dignity for seniors is to keep them as long as possible in their homes," he said.For example, Murphy pointed to government's decision to open small community health centres, staffed by a nurse or nurse practitioner, as one way to make health care more accessible.

"Extramural is just one facet of an economical and dignified way to provide health care," he said.Murphy said he isn't looking at adding any more money to the extra-mural program, but did say various aspects of the program could be re-examined."I don't see that extramural nursing has lost its focus," said Murphy.Brian Kenny, minister of state for seniors, said government is going to focus on helping seniors remain home for as long as possible.

"It's definitely the strategy that we want to make sure that we focus on because we know we have an aging population in the province," he said. "The long-term care strategy is the key to making sure we can keep New Brunswickers that are aging (at home) as long as possible."But the extra-mural program is just one aspect of helping seniors stay at home.

Seniors are also eligible for home support through the Department of Social Development. Unlike extra-mural, home support programs don't offer medical assistance. Instead, seniors receive help with housekeeping duties, preparation of meals and personal care.As well, the program doesn't have the same level of endorsement from seniors and workers.

There have been repeated complaints from employees over dismal wages and difficulty recruiting new workers.There's also the question of lack of training, said Smith of the seniors' federation."There's a major problem there. There is the problem of recruitment and retention, there's a huge turnover and that's basically caused by the low-income that's presently allocated to that program by the government," he said.

There's a lot of cases where these agencies are hiring people off the street."The province budgeted roughly $90 million in home support services in 2007-2008. Approximately 4,600 seniors are clients of the program and another 3,500 disabled adults are also clients.

The services are provided by roughly 3,200 home support workers hired by community-based agencies. Depending on their incomes, seniors can receive funding from government to pay for roughly 215 hours of care per month.

The province spends roughly $1,200 per month for each client, according to statistics provided by the department.The cost of living in a special-care home is about $2,800 to $3,000 per month.Kenny said although the Liberals have made investments in the program, he realizes more work needs to be done on the home support program.
Published Thursday January 22nd, 2009Telegraph-Journal

Hon. Brian KennyMinister of State for Seniors

Recent media coverage has focused on the special care home industry in our province.I am certain your readers will understand that due to any ongoing litigation and the rules of confidentiality, I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics of a case. However, I am free to speak about the special care home industry, what is happening in long-term care and how the process for entering a home unfolds. This may provide your readers with a clearer understanding of the issue.Firstly, there are many changes taking place in long-term care, and in response, private industry is becoming much more competitive. Government is doing its part to make sure our seniors have the services they need to live a good quality of life. In 2007-2008, for example, we invested approximately $74 million in special care home services in New Brunswick. About 4,575 residents of our province are residing in special care homes. They can apply to the province for financial assistance to cover some of the costs for their care. The maximum amount of assistance to these residents has increased from $28.87 per day in 1997 to $74 per day in 2007.It's important to remember that special care homes are private businesses providing services to people. As our population ages, competition is increasing because seniors are looking for more choices about how they want to live and where they want to live. Many seniors are staying in their homes longer. They don't always choose to go to a special care home right away. They prefer to stay in their own homes with help from home support workers when they need it. The government supports seniors in their desire to Be Independent Longer. It is the central theme of our long-term care strategy. About 4,600 seniors are taking advantage of the home support program. By the time they need more support, they may require Level 3 or 4 Care which means they will usually go to a nursing home.For many seniors, location of a facility is also important. Seniors want to be close to their families and their communities. They prefer private rooms instead of sharing a room. They may want larger accommodations so they can have more of their personal belongings around them. They may choose to take advantage of newer modern facilities. Some seniors are also opting to go into assisted living apartments or room and board. Assisted living or room and board are not "illegal facilities," but they do provide another choice for our seniors and they are privately paid.In an assisted living or room and board environment, seniors continue to live quite independently. Assistance with meals, laundry or housekeeping services can be provided. Seniors sometimes choose these accommodations simply for more social interaction. They are ready to leave their own home, but they are not ready to enter a special care home. Although assisted living or room and board accommodations are not required under legislation to be approved as community placement residential facilities, they are subject to government scrutiny. If we receive a complaint about any situation involving a senior, we will investigate, inspect the premises and take appropriate action as needed. Our seniors are not left to fend for themselves no matter where they live.With the special care home industry in transition, bed vacancies do occur. These vacancies often fluctuate depending on the demographics of a region and, as I described, the choices seniors make about their care. In terms of timelines for assessments to enter a special care home, we move as quickly as we can, while still allowing a senior and their family the time they need to make such a major adjustment in their lives.The department has benchmarks and policies in place which apply to vacancy rates. We will usually approve new special care homes in regions where the vacancy rate is less than 20 per cent. I note the provincial vacancy rate has decreased from approximately 29 per cent in 1998 to less than 20 per cent in 2008. Approximately 5,600 special care home beds are currently approved and approximately 1,025 are vacant. The fact that the vacancy rate is decreasing, while the number of beds is increasing demonstrates the special care home industry is healthy and robust.Government cannot protect and save every business from a changing marketplace where customers are looking for more options and where competitors are driving up the choice and quality of homes. However, we are looking at clarifying the rules on vacancy rates so they are clearer and more consistent from region to region. This should help to alleviate the concerns of special care home operators who are struggling with competition. The bottom line is special care homes are private businesses.As a department, we support options for seniors. We recognize their desire for other types of living arrangements. When housing options can enhance independent living, we believe it is for the better.Brian Kenny, minister of state for seniors, represents the riding of Bathurst.
Letter of the Day: Provide Seniors with Services Allowing Dignity
Moncton Times & Transcript,
1 January 2009

To The Editor:

It is time for the New Brunswick government to move forward on implementing a quality home care service for seniors of this province. Forget trying to house seniors in nursing homes and special care homes.That is not where our seniors want to live. Seniors enjoy their own surroundings they built years ago. They want to live in their own homes/dwellings etc, not in nursing homes or special care homes.What is needed in order for seniors to receive respect and dignity is quality care. It can be had by having home support workers who receive training, worthy wages and benefits. This should be high on the agenda of government for quality care to be provided.They deserve much better for their services.This notion of placing seniors in nursing homes and special care homes needs to change. Nursing homes are an extension of a hospital for the frail and ill. Many seniors who are in hospitals would love to go home if New Brunswick had a 24-hour home care service program.Housing seniors in these facilities is very costly. Living at home is providing a quality of life for seniors and much cheaper.
Cecile Cassista,Executive Director,
Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights
Riverview, NB

4 December 2008
Home-support Workers Need to be Paid More
Published Thursday December 4th, 2008, Daily Gleaner, Fredericton

The province needs to act fast and improve working conditions and pay for the its 3,000 home-support workers, says the executive director of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons.
“We’re on the cusp of a crisis that is going to need to be addressed,” Randy Dickinson said Wednesday as he released his first annual report on the province’s response to 100 recommendations that were identified a year ago in the council’s disability plan strategy.
Dickinson said the issue is pressing because the number of New Brunswickers with a disability is on the rise.
The last census found New Brunswick has the second-highest number of disabled people per capita, Dickinson said.
There’s increasing concern that the next generation of workers isn’t being drawn to home care because of inadequate compensation, Dickinson said.
“We already have problems now finding competent people to be able to provide those services that allow disabled people and seniors to stay in their own homes longer,” Dickinson said.
That’s why it’s important to make sure there are enough people willing and qualified to care for those in need, he said.
“If we don’t address that issue, we’re going to be in a real dilemma,” Dickinson said.
He expressed some hope that steps can be taken over the next year to begin resolving the problems.
There are about 3,000 home-support workers in New Brunswick.
Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Homes Residents’ Rights, said she’s pleased Dickinson is raising the matter.
“The province needs to step up and address that issue. Home-support workers are not receiving adequate wages,” she said.
Her groups wants the workers to be paid more and put under the umbrella of New Brunswick’s extra-mural program, she said.
Many of the workers are making little more than minimum wage, she said.
“Some people have left the industry because they can no longer afford to work in the industry. They get attached to seniors, but they have to make a living too,” Cassista said.
Social Development Minister Mary Schryer said the province is aware of the situation and the matter is up for consideration for the province’s 2009 budget.
“We know that they are a vital part of our system. We’ve also made sure it has been referred to the budget process and they know that,” she said.
“We are looking at their compensation and their issues with travel mileage to see what we can do in this year’s budget.”

1 December 2008

Seniors want help with heat
Published Monday December 1st, 2008

N.B. seniors will push for better assistance program during meeting with minister this week

Home heating will be a top issue for provincial seniors in the coming months according to the New Brunswick Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights. The issue was the main topic discussed at the lobbying group's special board meeting Saturday in Moncton.
Cecile Cassista, executive director of the coalition, said the province's new home heating assistance program falls short on what it should be offering, adding that people who need it the most this winter will have a harder time accessing it.
Cassista said the topic of home hearing assistance will be high on the agenda when the Coalition meets with Brian Kenny, MLA for Bathurst and the newly appointed Minister of State for Seniors on Wednesday.
Last month, the government announced it would eliminate its $5.5-million emergency heating program and replacing it with a new $1-million public-private emergency heating trust fund. Cassista said the new program wouldn't include seniors who rent their apartments and have their home heating costs tallied within their total monthly rent bill.
"It is really sad to see that seniors have been cut out of the equation," she said.
Cassista said everybody at the board meeting was unanimous in their concerns with the new program, upset that the private sector would have a hand in the program. The Coalition for the past month has been chiding the government for giving the Salvation Army part jurisdiction over the new service, with Cassista saying it was an example of the government "downloading their responsibilities."
She also said the government has made the process of getting assistance more difficult, moving from what was originally a one-page application form to what now includes a commitment of those seeking assistance to take credit counseling and give personal financial information to the Salvation Army. Cassista said the coalition strongly feels the home heating program is an issue of social justice and not charity and therefore should be administered completely by the government.
Aside from home heating, a discussion was also held about the number of complaint calls coming in alleging physical and verbal abuse inside some provincial nursing homes. Cassista said the province hasn't been taking the complaints seriously.
"We've been getting a lot of calls about that and we're going to be asking the minister to take it out of the responsibility of the Social Development department and ask that it should be an outside overseer investigating," she said.
Cassista said the complaint calls aren't being addressed in a timely matter and sometimes aren't being addressed at all. She said the complaint calls would be better handled by somebody independent from the government, much like the province's child advocate.
"The wheels of justice aren't turning very fast," said Cassista, adding she'd like to see any recorded infractions at a New Brunswick nursing care home be made public and perhaps put online, much like the province's Food Service Establishment Inspection Results.
"They should make it public," she said. "They should open it up and show the infractions."
The coalition will also be making a push to get details about the province's long-term care strategy for New Brunswick seniors, released last February, in a report titled 'Be independent. Longer.'
The report listed 53 specific recommendations with the goal of making senior care better in the province. Included in the report's strategy was the creation of 700 new nursing home beds over the next 10-years, while reducing the dependency on nursing homes by helping seniors remain in their own homes longer. While the government said the plan should be fully implemented by 2018, it contained no concrete timeline for the completion of those commitments.
The Coalition said the government told them an action plan would be given to them last spring, with dates included on those commitments.
13 October 2008
Miramichi Leader

Coming winter has seniors worried
Published Monday October 13th, 2008

Potential cuts to government heating assistance cause for concern for low income earners Winter's coming, and that nip in the air has seniors worried about keeping their homes heated, if heating oil prices rise and this season turns out as harsh as the last.

"Most of us are on pensions, and it's a lot of money," said Marjorie Ovenden, a Retirement Miramichi resident originally from Ontario.
Ovenden took the long view this summer, filling up her tank months ago, to a cost of $500. So far, she's opted to heat her living room with an electric heater, and her kitchen with the stove when she uses it. Her bedroom she has kept unheated so far, noting she doesn't spend too much time there.
She's avoided using her heating oil so far. "I'm hoping it'll last me the winter, providing we don't have the winter we had last year," she said. "It's difficult to judge just exactly what's going to happen, especially under the economic circumstances of today."

Another Ontario native who lives on Retirement Miramichi, Susan White, noted the company that supplies the village with heating oil during the winter months offers a slight discount.
"That will be a help. Every little bit helps," she said. She noted, however, that it would still be hard this winter. "We'll have to huddle around the fireplace, or go back to Ontario and huddle around it with our children," she said. Neither White nor Ovenden took advantage of the government's home heating grant of $100 for low-income families. New Brunswick recently cancelled that particular program, in favour of examining all programs offered to low income earners to see where changes can be made.

Mary Jane Hickey, the Miramichi coordinator of the 50-plus Healthy Living Program in the region, said lower-income seniors are very worried about the cost of heating their homes.
"They're basically looking at ... moving in with a family member, looking to downsize," she said. "They know they have to survive the winter and make the best of it, but it's certainly putting a lot of stress on them."
Hickey is worried about what effect that stress will have on the health of some seniors, noting many call to ask what her centre can do. She notes, however, that heating costs are beyond the scope of the Healthy Living Program.
"This is an issue they'll have to bring up with the politicians, because it is an issue," she said. "We should be trying to support our seniors, not taking away from them."

Cecile Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition For Nursing Home Residents' Rights, says the prospect of losing the heating grant has raised a lot of outcry, prompting many of the organization's members to speak out to the media about the ordeal they expect to face.
"At the very least, people are saying to the [government] ‘At least take away the HST, take that away,'" Cassista reported. "But it's going to be a crunch for them. Some of them are telling us if it comes to going without medication to heat their homes, that's what they'll have to do. It's like a time bomb ticking."

Last year, almost 5,000 people in Northumberland County used the government's Home Energy Assistance Program, which provided $100 to families with a total income of less than $28,000. 55,000 New Brunswickers used the program.
Marc Belliveau, a spokesman for the Finance Department, which administers the program, said the program was a one-time grant that had been renewed from the previous year.
He noted aside from the heating grant, the Social Development Department and Efficiency New Brunswick had programs to help lower income new Brunswickers cope with reducing heating costs.
He said the current review process involved looking at all such programs offered to see how to offer the best programs to "make sure that we're getting the best bang for our buck" in terms of offering those programs efficiently.
Belliveau would not comment on whether a renewal of the home heating program was on the table, but said the department was aware that a decision had to come in weeks, not months.
"This is a tough winter and certainly with what's been happening economically and the energy prices where they are, that's what they're aiming to do," he said. "They're trying to do something to help those who need help the most. What form that's going to take, I'm not sure."
October 2008
UTAction, Troisième Age

La genèse d’une coalitionpar Hector J. Cormier

Quelques années passées, une dame de Moncton, dont le mari avait été hospitalisé depuis un certain temps, mais qui, selon les autorités hospitalières, aurait dû être dans un foyer, recevait une facture de 189 000$ pour couvrir les frais encourus. Qu’elle ait été surprise n’est pas peu dire! C’était l’époque où le gouvernement considérait tous les avoirs du client – salaire, revenus de retraite, comptes de banque, REER, plan de pension du Canada, propriétés sauf la résidence principale, polices d’assurance, etc. – quand venait le temps de calculer le coût pour habiter dans un foyer. Il pouvait coûter entre 49 275$ et 73 000$ par an pour y vivre.

On prenait littéralement ces personnes – résidants autant que leurs familles – à la gorge. On les saignait à blanc et on appauvrissait le conjoint qui allait devoir demeurer seul à la maison. Devant pareille situation, devant pareille aberration et pareille injuste, quelques dames de la région de Moncton se regroupèrent, écrivirent des lettres aux ministères intéressés, publièrent des lettres à l’opinion du lecteur, tinrent des réunions ici et là dans la province, mais en vain. Le gouvernement ne les prenait pas au sérieux et refusait littéralement de les rencontrer.

Personne, sauf les familles impliquées, ne semblait voir la gravité de la situation. Bien beau de crier sur tous les toits que les aînés ont le droit de vieillir et de mourir dans la dignité et le respect, mais faut-il pour cela que de tels principes se traduisent dans la réalité.

On a porté plainte au bureau de l’Ombudsman qui en a fait l’étude et qui est arrivé à la conclusion que (1) le calcul de la contribution financière des familles devant se prévaloir des services de foyers de soins soit exclusivement basé sur le revenu du client et que (2) le coût des services de santé offerts aux résidents des foyers de soins du Nouveau-Brunswick soit la responsabilité de la province. Ajoutons que, lors d’un atelier de travail que tenait le Conseil des aînés de la province à Dieppe, à une question que posait le signataire de ce texte, la présidente du Conseil, Sr Anne Robichaud, s’était complètement dissociée de ces deux recommandations se ralliant plutôt du côté du gouvernement.

Si le Conseil des aînées n’allait pas s’intéresser à pareille préoccupation, qui allait le faire? Si le gouvernement refusait de prendre au sérieux les individus qui voulaient faire valoir des justes doléances, peut-être allait-on devoir rêver à la possibilité d’une coalition qui, elle, verrait à la défense des intérêts et surtout des droits des résidants des foyers de soins de longue durée.
On fit appel à des groupes religieux, des syndicats, des associations d’aînés, et autres groupes intéressés. Il s’en est trouvé plus de cinquante regroupant près de 100 000 membres. Et, en 2004, la Coalition voyait le jour. Elle allait devenir une voix forte pour les résidants des foyers de soins et leurs familles. Elle allait mener un combat de tous les instants pour assurer des changements importants à leur qualité de vie : des coûts raisonnables, un personnel soignant plus nombreux et des efforts pour garder les gens dans leurs résidences le plus longtemps possible.

La Coalition a fait œuvre d’éducation et d’information, a rencontré les ministres intéressés, a fait des revendications pertinentes et a tenu le public informé. C’est devant cet organisme que l’aspirant premier ministre Shawn Graham a promis la création d’un ministère d’État aux aînés s’il était porté au pouvoir. C’est par la même occasion qu’il a annoncé une augmentation progressive du personnel des foyers de soin et que seul le revenu du client serait considéré dans l’établissement des coûts pour habiter dans ce genre d’établissement alors que le taux par jour serait de 70$. Voilà qui constituait tout un revirement relativement aux politiques existantes.
Le gouvernement a apporté ces changements dès le début de son mandat. La Coalition lui en est redevable. Devant de telles améliorations, les membres se sont demandé si le travail était terminé. Pas question de disparaître, affirmèrent-ils de façon unanime, tant et aussi longtemps que toutes les promesses n’auraient pas été réalisées. Il était important d’agir en chien de garde et d’apporter un point de vue sur toutes les politiques gouvernementales existantes et à venir.
C’est ce que fait la Coalition. Elle étudie tout document et toute politique relatifs au vieillissement de la population, aux soins des aînés, à leur habitation et à la possibilité de les garder chez eux le plus longtemps possible.

La Coalition compte évidemment sur le bénévolat et la générosité de ses membres. Elle ne possède qu’un modeste budget. Mais cela n’empêche pas la directrice générale, Cécile Cassista de Riverview, d’y consacrer une bonne partie de son temps de retraite. Le Conseil d’administration tient deux réunions par an, mais son bureau de direction se rencontre aussi souvent que la situation l’exige. Le gouvernement prend au sérieux les revendications de la Coalition précisément parce que le sujet est d’actualité, que les besoins sont pressants et que la société se doit d’offrir à cette partie de sa population vieillissante qui a besoin d’appui, un traitement empreint de compassion et de dignité.

Hector J. Cormier de Moncton est enseignant à la retraite, membre de la Société des enseignantes et des enseignants retraités francophones du N.-B., (SERFNB) et l’actuel président de la Coalition.*********************************************
9 October 2008

The candidates for the federal riding of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe took time last night to meet with seniors and listen to their concerns. Here the candidates listen to a question

Metro candidates debate health care, pension plans, Afghanistan

By Eric Lewis Times & Transcript Staff
When an election is called, you're not going to find a more interested or passionate group of citizens than seniors. That was clear last night at Lakeview Tower senior citizens complex in Riverview.

The candidates for the federal riding of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe took time last night to meet with seniors and listen to their concerns. Here the candidates listen to a question.
Three of the four Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe federal election candidates responded to questions from about 100 concerned seniors and community members, and when the seniors heard something they didn't like, they would let the candidate know it. Likewise, when they heard something they agreed with, a cheer and clapping would erupt.

Conservative candidate Daniel Allain, Green Party candidate Alison Ménard and Liberal candidate Brian Murphy all engaged in the debate.
NDP candidate Carl Bainbridge couldn't attend the "town hall" forum due to work commitments, debate moderator Hector Cormier, the president of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, said.
The main issues at hand last night related to health care and living on a fixed income, two issues key to many elderly across the country.
The first question, asked by Cormier, was about pension splitting. He asked if each candidate was willing to commit to keep pension splitting, the practice of splitting incomes between a couple so that they pay less taxes overall, available to seniors.
"We are not going to reverse the steps of the Conservative party," Murphy explained, saying the child tax credit and income splitting would both remain if they Liberals took government.
Ménard echoed the importance of income splitting and said the Green Party is committed to expanding upon the programs already in place.
Allain touted the moves the Conservative government has already made on boosting seniors' incomes by taxing them less and promised that they would expand upon their programs further if elected.
Other seniors asked if the candidates supported the creation of a national public pharmacare plan, a program that would help people afford expensive medications and treatment for ailments.
Each of the candidates said they would indeed support such a plan, with Murphy saying it isn't right that drug plans in some provinces cover certain medications that aren't covered here in Atlantic Canada.
Allain said a "quick fix" isn't a responsible way to solve a problem, but he said that he also supports a national pharmacare program.
The candidates were also asked about changes to old age and retirement pension plans, with some citizens saying there are too many seniors on fixed incomes that were at or below the poverty line.
When asked what changes each candidate and their parties would make, Allain noted that seniors need a bigger voice at Parliament.
In one of a handful of times last night, Allain called out Murphy to speak about the Liberals' carbon tax plan that would tax people and businesses based on how much they pollute.
Ménard accused Allain of not answering the question relating to changes to retirement and old age plans. She noted that the Green Party's platform called for increasing old age and guaranteed income supplements by 25 per cent, which drew cheers from the crowd. She said it was also looking at minimum set incomes for Canadians.
Murphy then spoke, saying, "The element of the Green Shift that taxes polluters provides benefits to people like you as seniors," he says.
He then shot at Allain, saying the Conservatives had no plan to make any changes to Old Age Security or Guaranteed Income Supplements, and adding that a Liberal government would increase the GIS by $600.
Later, on the topic of the Liberal Green Shift plan, Allain told the seniors, "I believe you can spend your money better than Stéphane Dion."
That comment drew cheers from the crowd, but so did Ménard's retort that while people should spend their money how they wish, everyone should be able to live at a minimum reasonable standard.
While health care and pension plans were the major focuses of last night's debate, foreign aid and the war in Afghanistan came up, with each candidate noting it was important to contribute to foreign aid.
Allain said, "Giving is part of Canada, it's part of what we do."
Ménard noted that the Green Party would like to see Canada move away from a violent role overseas to one of development.

11 June 2008
Left to right: Hon. Eugene McGinley, Minister of State for Seniors and Housing, Cecile Cassista, Executive Director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, Wayne Harrigan, Secretary, Hector Cormier, President.

Hector Cormier, Cecile Cassista and Wayne Harrigan travelled to Fredericton to attend the press conference where Minister of State for Seniors and Housing, Eugene McGinley, announced the establishment of a Senior and Healthy Aging Secretariat as of July 1. Its mandate: to coodinate the implementation of the long-term care strategy over the coming years. André LéPine will assume its direction.

13 May 2008
Left to right: Hector Cormier, President, Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, Senator Sharon Carstairs, Cecile Cassista, Executive Director, Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights

April 2008
Left to right: Cecile Cassista, Executive Director, Coalition; Phyllis Mockler-Caissie, Senior Policy Analyst, Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Department of Social Development; Kevin Symes, Vice-President, Coalition; Hector Cormier, President, Coalition; Pat Goobie, Treasurer, Coalition; Janet Thomas, Director, Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Department of Social Development