Cost of drugs, home heating highlighted
St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Siobhan Coady held a community consultation session on seniors issues Sunday night in St. John's. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The Liberal MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl hosted a town hall forum on seniors issues on Sunday night in St. John's.
It's the second such forum Siobhan Coady has hosted since winning her seat in October's federal election.
"There's a lot of people that say ... they don't see their member of Parliament from one election to the next," said Coady just before the forum began.
Coady decided to hold regular forums so people can voice their concerns to her face to face.
The first town hall was on the economy, but even at that meeting seniors issues kept coming up.
"The whole issue of the economy is hurting seniors quit a bit," said Coady. "A lot of people are not able to retire when they want to or had expected to retire because of the change in the economy."
Coady expected the 40 or so people who came to the Royal Canadian Legion hall on Blackmarsh Road to talk about things such as pensions, affordable housing and pharmacare.
And all of those issues came up.
One of the people who spoke Sunday was Ralph Morris.
He's the vice-president of the Avalon chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
Morris said low income seniors have been forgotten while the cost of living continues to soar.
"There's a number of people out there today who have to decide if they are going to buy food, if they are going to pay their light bill, (or) if they're going to buy their medications," he said.
"I think it's a crime in this country and something has to be done about it."
Morris said since the province signed the Hebron oil deal last summer, some seniors have had their rents go up by as much as 50 per cent.
He said some seniors have ended up couch-surfing - staying with a revolving door of relatives - or in long term care facilities.
Janet Fairley wanted to talk about seniors who are struggling to heat their homes.
She called the taxes on home heating fuel "horrendous."
"(Some seniors) turn their heat down. They go around their houses in coats because they are frozen," she said.
"You can chose to drive your car or not," she said "But you do have to keep warm,"
Fairley said she knows seniors who can only afford to have their heat on a couple of hours a day.
Coady nodded and said she's heard of others who go to shopping malls in the winter just to stay warm.
A number of people also brought up the issue of public sector pensions, which have seen no increase in years while current civil servants just got a 20 per cent raise this year.
City councilors Frank Galgay and Debbie Hanlon were also at the forum.
St. John's City Council has approved, and is in the process of forming, a mayors advisory committee for seniors.