43e législature, 1e session

L105B - Tue 31 Oct 2023 / Mar 31 oct 2023

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO

Tuesday 31 October 2023 Mardi 31 octobre 2023

Private Members’ Public Business

Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur la Semaine de sensibilisation à la planification de l’âge d’or

 

Report continued from volume A.

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Private Members’ Public Business

Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 sur la Semaine de sensibilisation à la planification de l’âge d’or

Mrs. Wai moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 137, An Act to proclaim Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week / Projet de loi 137, Loi proclamant la Semaine de sensibilisation à la planification de l’âge d’or.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.

Mrs. Daisy Wai: Today I rise to discuss a matter of great importance, one that touches the lives of every Ontarian. We gather here to deliberate on Bill 137, Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023, my private member’s bill. It is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to address a significant demographic shift and prepare us for the profound changes that are occurring within our society.

As we stand on the precipice of an aging population, we must not view this as a challenge but as a profound opportunity to reshape our future. Our community is growing and aging at a rapid pace. The Ontario Ministry of Finance’s summer projections for 2023 paint a vivid picture of our province’s evolving landscape. The number of seniors aged 65 and over is set to increase significantly, from 2.8 million, or 18.4% of the population, in 2022 to 4.4 million, or 20.3%, by 2046.

I learned a lot from my great Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. We work on the file for seniors, and that’s why it touches my heart.

Such rapid growth in the senior population will continue as the last cohorts of baby boomers reach the age of 65, with the share of seniors projected to peak at 20.9% in 2036.

By 2031, one in five residents will be 65 or older. And seniors in York region are living longer than the average Canadian, with a life expectancy of 84.1 years, compared to 81.1 years for the rest of Canada.

However, the most remarkable growth will be seen in the older age groups, where the number of individuals aged 75 and over is set to more than double, and those in the 90-plus group will triple.

These statistics are not mere numbers; they represent the real lives, stories and experiences of our fellow senior adult Ontarians. They remind us that the silver years of our senior citizens are a treasure and a testament to the contributions they have made to our culture and development. It is our duty to ensure that they live out their silver years comfortably, in an environment that caters to their needs and interests.

Bill 137, the Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023, has a simple yet profound objective: to encourage meaningful and positive conversations among Ontarians on how to plan for their silver years well before retirement. Friends, families and caregivers can help to support and have the discussions with them so that they have this awareness and can plan before they reach their senior years. Its purpose is to promote advance planning that ensures our seniors are psychologically, physically and financially prepared for their future.

Speaker, I started caring about seniors when I was looking around the population in my own riding, in Richmond Hill. We have a lot of immigrants coming into Richmond Hill and a lot of them immigrate with their parents. They are reaching their senior years, and a lot of them may not be able to speak the language. It can be Iranians, it can be Koreans, and a lot of my riding is Chinese as well. When they are sick, when they are in the hospital, it is a difficult time for them to express in a different language what they really need. I see that.

I see their concerns, so I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to join the board of Mackenzie Health. I work on that to support my community, and seniors are a big part of it, which is why, after Mackenzie Health, I joined the board of the CCAC, because they are really community caregivers. Then I joined the Markham Stouffville Hospital. I care for seniors, which is why, when I became an MPP, I discussed with the Premier that I really wanted to serve, and I am fortunate to be able to serve, in the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. That’s where my heart is and that’s where, in my heart, I have come up with this private member’s bill.

What really drives me is my daughter. She is in the IT sector. She also works supporting some of the nursing homes. She sees a lot of work being done in nursing homes. She sees a lot of good stuff and a lot of concerns as well. But she also asked me, I would say almost 10 years ago, “Mom, would you rather be aging at home, or would you rather be in long-term care?” That gives me a good idea of why I want to think about this a lot earlier. Ten years ago is not that early, because that is a time when my daughter is younger, and when I demand for something, I’m ready and willing to express it. She is brave enough to say things that I’m not too old to say no to.

I still remember when my mother-in-law was in her later years and when she had to be in hospital, and we had to think about having her in a retirement home. We didn’t even dare to mention the word. In the Chinese community you wouldn’t even dare to mention the word “death” or planning something towards it. It is a no-no word. But if you mention it a lot earlier, we can rationally analyze everything, which is part of the reason that triggered me to have this special bill.

Bill 137, the Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023, has a simple yet profound objective: to encourage meaningful and positive conversations among Ontarians on how to plan for their silver years well before retirement, as the population ages. It seeks to raise awareness and foster early discussions among families, friends and caregivers. Its purpose is to promote advance planning that ensures our seniors are psychologically, physically and financially prepared for the future.

For too long, we’ve had a wrong opinion about aging. We’re focusing on negative aspects and ignoring the incredible potential that comes with longer lives. Let me emphasize, Speaker, that longevity is not a disability.

I got reinforcement from a conference that I attended recently, along with my minister, the ORCA conference. They had a speaker talking about how to plan for the second part of your life, after your retirement. They said to set positive goals. It doesn’t mean that after you retire you just stay and get stagnant. I know a lot of my friends, after they retired, all of a sudden they got sick and then they passed away. It is very sad. So let’s help them to have a positive second part of their life.

I just want to emphasize that longevity, as I just said, is not a disability. Instead, it represents the extension of healthy and vibrant years and an opportunity to explore new horizons and engage in the world with wisdom and experience.

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Speaker, failing to plan for the escalating needs of our seniors, whether they are financial, physical, mental or others, can lead to complications. Proactive planning by families, friends and caregivers ensures that seniors are better prepared to face the opportunities as well as the challenges, offering them a life of satisfaction and enjoyment, with dignity and comfort. We need to consider the whole person: how they want to live, what lifestyle they expect and how to use their resources to achieve it.

In fact, recently, there are a lot of different organizations, businesses. They are coming up to provide different kinds of opportunities for seniors to make the best use of the latter part of their life. If we let them be aware that this is coming up, they can go around into different organizations. We can even have a fair on this for them to know, “Okay, I can even choose, if I want to go into long-term care, which one is better for me.” Or, “I have seen some retirement homes, luxurious-style-hotel sort of living. Yes, if this is what I want, that will mean that I might have to save a part or set aside money or make sure my children are aware of it so that I will be able to live in that kind of environment down the road.” Or, “If I realize that my children—we understand that they have concerns that they will have a family; they will be doing their career, their jobs; they will have a hard time taking care of me as well. What can we do financially and physically? Or should I put aside money to hire somebody as a caregiver for helping me at home?”

These are the kinds of things we need to plan about ahead of time. Therefore, this bill is an opportunity to promote proactive conversations between families, friends and caregivers and also knowledge of what is available out there to help me in my senior life so that I can make the necessary arrangements.

In conclusion, we’ve discussed the significance of Bill 137, the Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023, and the profound demographic shifts Ontario—

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you very much. Further debate?

MPP Lise Vaugeois: I’d like to thank the member from Richmond Hill for this bill. As I understand the bill, the hope is that proclaiming a week of awareness would promote proactive conversations between families, friends and caregivers about future arrangements for seniors. And I agree; getting people to sit down together amidst their busy lives and figure out wills, powers of care, powers of attorney, where and how people want to live or would like to live—if you’re already a senior, like myself, I’ve got to be figuring these things out. So in principle, I think this is a good thing.

The conversations are challenging, but I would like to note that organizations like Hospice Northwest in Thunder Bay have actually been doing work on this for many years by providing easy-to-use materials that guide a person through the process of doing all of this planning. In fact, I attended an event they used to hold regularly pre-COVID called Die-alogues. That’s D-I-E-alogues. The title was tongue-in-cheek, but all the surrounding topics were taken very seriously. I left there with all the information I need to plan my own future as I age. Now, have I sat down and filled out the paperwork? Not yet. So perhaps setting aside a week to promote the need to do these things before it’s too late could be a very good thing.

I think after this bill passes—and of course, we know it will pass—we will have a Seniors Month and a Silver Years Awareness Week, two acts that are largely symbolic. But if they raise awareness in a good way, that’s a good thing.

I’m assuming that there will also be a publicity campaign to promote Silver Years Awareness Week. I would like to suggest that the campaign be broadened to address the following issue: Voula’s Law. In 2021, this House unanimously voted in support of motion 129, which sent a message that the misuse of the Trespass to Property Act that keeps loved ones away from family members in care homes must stop. However, in spite of the acceptance of this motion, the Trespass to Property Act is still being used, illegally, to restrict access to visitors of people living in retirement homes, group or long-term-care homes, and even in private homes. The result is the forced separation of vulnerable adults and disabled children from their caregivers. Indeed, the unlawful use of the Trespass to Property Act continues to create a palpable culture of fear and silence among people living in care and their family members. The government knows this problem is ongoing and that there are many, many people being illegally barred from visiting their loved ones, but it continues to refuse to do anything about it.

There’s another issue that needs to be clarified. On May 5, 2023, I wrote to the former Minister of Long-Term Care about the misuse of the Trespass to Property Act to ban people from visiting their loved ones in care settings. He referred, at the time, to the Residents’ Bill of Rights that, in theory, would solve the problem, but we know it hasn’t solved the problem, because it’s going on and on and on. Also, in his response, he implied that the health and safety of staff was grounds for issuing trespass to the visitors of care facility occupiers, but this is not correct. In accordance with our courts’ decisions, the Occupational Health and Safety Act is not a valid ground for trespass. So, to be clear, as per our courts’ rulings, the Trespass to Property Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act have no application in determining who can and cannot visit someone living in care. In fact, nowhere in the Trespass to Property Act is health, safety or behaviour an enumerated ground to trespass. Unsafe or dangerous behaviour by the general public is governed by our Criminal Code and enforced by the police. The removal of a person visiting a home can be done so pursuant to disturbance of the peace, mischief—or a peace bond is also an option. Again, the only person who has the right to decide who should or should not be allowed in their living space is the occupier.

So the issue is that these abuses of the Trespass to Property Act are continuing, quite routinely. Seniors and others in care are being forcibly isolated, and too many police officers are mistakenly upholding the illegal use of the law. The consequences are deadly. People are forcibly isolated, and those banned are forced take on expensive court proceedings to receive a ruling that will come, inevitably, that the trespass order is not valid.

Again, the only person with the right to decide who can and who cannot enter a person’s home is the occupier of the unit—whether it is a single room in a house or a unit in a congregate living space.

In the most recent case I am working on, a son who is visiting his mother every single day has been blocked for 90 days from visiting with her and is having to hire lawyers to prove to the police and the facility that they are in the wrong and are, in fact, breaking the law. When police are ignorant of the correct use of the law, they themselves become vulnerable to charges of breach of trust.

We are not waiting for action. Together with other advocates fighting against the abuse of seniors and the abuse of people with disabilities, we have launched a campaign with police to change their training in order to protect police from the consequences of the misuse of the Trespass to Property Act and, most importantly, to prevent others from using it as a weapon to stop criticisms of the level of care being received in homes.

There undoubtedly will be some kind of public relations campaign that goes along with this bill, so let’s broaden that campaign so that the people across the province understand the correct and incorrect application of the Trespass to Property Act, so that people are not isolated and punished for raising issues about the quality of care they’re receiving.

A few other things that are of concern regarding seniors: I recently received a letter from Seniors for Social Action, and I will go into it on another occasion in more detail, but the biggest concern is the privatization of home care in that bill, with up to 30% of every public dollar going into profits for shareholders. We are in a time when many people cannot find a primary health care provider, and I’m seeing more and more people forced to sign on to and pay annual fees. This was not supposed to happen, but it is happening now routinely. Everybody is worried about it; certainly seniors are.

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The privatization of long-term care: Well, yes, we see new homes being built, but they’re all for-profit. We already know that that has not served our seniors well.

The seniors dental program: Seniors get a tiny little increase, a bump up, somewhere along the line in one of their government payments, and all of a sudden, they no longer qualify for the dental plan. That puts them in a much worse position than before they got that little bump up. So it’s really crucial. I hope that the Ministry for Seniors will work together with the Ministry of Health to actually change that threshold so that seniors are not punished for getting these minor increases to their incomes.

Now, I’m going to end on a bit more of a humorous note. I see I actually have a few minutes—I could talk a lot more, but no. I do have a couple things. I am going to end with something humorous.

I do remain concerned about the $50-million cut to the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility that became evident during the budget estimates. I’m really concerned about what programs are being cut, and it makes me worry that the care of seniors is a low priority for the government. I know it’s not a low priority for the associate minister and the minister, but I’m worried that it is a low priority for the government as a whole.

Of course, I remain disappointed that the government was unwilling to create the position of an independent seniors’ or older adults’ adviser as an independent officer of the Legislature.

But I’m going to go back just a little bit: This morning, the Premier, in his first press conference in 40 days, I think, chose the moment to dump on bicycle lanes and cyclists. This was a very bizarre thing. He talked about, somehow, a war on cars. The seniors ministry really wants to encourage seniors to be active. We know we have also had the Moving Ontarians Safely Act, which has been presented many times but never gone through. We really could use that.

Well, I’m a senior, and I ride my bike to the Legislature in the morning and back to my apartment at the end of the day. I use those bike lanes because I feel reasonably safe when I’m in those bike lanes. They’re very, very important. This is part of me trying to keep myself active. So I was surprised to hear the Premier somehow talking about bike lanes and a war on cars in a conversation where he probably needed to be talking about the RCMP and other issues that were more pertinent to the moment, let’s say.

In closing, I think this is a lovely bill. I know that we will vote in support of it. I continue to worry that we’re not seeing enough that is truly substantive, that can really change things materially for seniors who don’t have a lot of means. Unfortunately, we know that many do not have means, because they are in line at the food banks. That’s what I’ve been told by the people running food banks in my riding, that there has been an enormous increase in seniors coming for food.

I will end my discourse here. I thank the member again for your caring. I know how important this is to you. I look forward to some kind of campaign that encourages these conversations and, I hope, also addresses the problem with the illegal use of the Trespass to Property Act.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?

Mr. Lorne Coe: I am pleased to speak in support of Bill 137, sponsored by the member for Richmond Hill, because our government builds every day on the foundation seniors have created over decades of achievement. It’s our goal to help all seniors age well and with independence, able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in their later years and to be supported through any challenges. In that regard, seniors should be enabled to make choices and determine what is right for them. Measures to strengthen their capacity to do so should be taken.

I believe that MPP Wai’s proposed legislation, Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, is one such measure in helping seniors consider the benefits of advance care planning; for example, setting up powers of attorney and encouraging them to choose who can make personal care and financial decisions on their behalf, if necessary. This is a step long awaited by the many seniors’ groups in our province who have formed an advisory group for the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat over the years. So this will be embraced by those seniors’ groups. This step will empower seniors and their families, enabling them to stay engaged in their communities, with a multitude of options available to them.

Speaker, our government’s goal is to ensure that seniors today and all of us who will one day join their ranks are able to age with respect and dignity and remain healthy, independent and as active as they wish. And I heard this in a round table that I was joined with by the Minister for Seniors. They spoke very passionately about what I’m outlining today, so we are delivering on that through this legislation.

By continuing our services and supports that ensure seniors stay independent, healthy and active, safe and socially connected, all of Ontario continues to benefit from the tremendous knowledge, compassion and experience that seniors have to share, yes, in their senior years.

I want to commend again the member from Richmond Hill for bringing forward this bill, a long-awaited bill, to address the needs of our seniors’ community.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?

Mrs. Robin Martin: I also want to start by commending the member for Richmond Hill for bringing forward this important bill. She is our parliamentary assistant to the Minister for Seniors, and she’s doing a great job in that role.

This is a very important bill, because planning for the future of our seniors is critical. There’s that expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” We do have to plan, and this is a subject over which I have an obsessive interest because I’m woman of a certain age, and I have now lost both of my parents, unfortunately. They both passed. My father passed first, and I went through the experience of not having properly prepared with my father. We had prepared a little, but not a lot. I was much more proactive with my mother in making sure that we had powers of attorney for personal care, power of attorney for property and all of those critical documents, but also, and most importantly, that we had the discussions about what my mother wanted for her life and for her end.

I read a book—it was recommended to me by a constituent—by Dr. Atul Gawande. He talks about living well right up into the end, and I think that’s a beautiful way of putting what we all want in our senior years: to live as well as we can right up until the end. We know death comes for all of us at some point, but what I’m really concerned about is that our senior citizens have their wishes respected, whatever those wishes are, and the most important thing is that their loved ones who will help them or the people who are taking care of them know what their wishes are and in as much detail as possible.

When I was first parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, as I am now—but when I was first appointed to this role, a doctor of critical care came to see me and wanted to discuss this topic. How do we help seniors to plan more for their future and for their ultimate demise? How do we make sure that we respect their wishes? Because even in a medical setting, it’s very important that the doctors know what the senior citizen needs and wants for their care.

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There are kind of four critical questions. I don’t know if I know them all off top off my head but, for example, do you want your heart restarted if it stops? Sometimes if your heart is stopped, you can have brain damage and/or your ribs can be broken. Do you want to have your heart restarted? The answer to that question probably changes over time depending on your quality of life and how well you are in other ways. Another question is, would you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube, for example? So if you could no longer swallow properly to have meals, would you want a feeding tube put in to extend your life?

These are the kinds of difficult questions that, as a child of somebody who was in the hospital and having to make those decisions—I had to make those decisions for my father without knowing what he really wanted. That’s hard, because as the child who loves them, you want to do what they would want. But at that point, often the senior citizen, the parent, the grandparent, cannot direct you.

These are hard conversations to have but they’re much easier conversations to have when everybody is healthy and well. It’s just, “In theory, in the future, what would you like to happen if these circumstances arise? They may never arise, but if I had to answer this question, I want to do what you want as my parent.”

To say we are indebted to our parents, our grandparents, our seniors in this province is obvious. We are indebted to them, and I think the most important thing is that we give them the respect and the love they deserve. That means following whatever their wishes are. Anything we can do to make sure we know those wishes, I fully, fully support.

I think this is a great step because people will want to have these conversations. Setting aside a week to make that happen—we can all encourage our constituents to do it—is a wonderful contribution. I want to thank the member from Richmond Hill for having so much foresight to bring this forward.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Further debate?

Mr. Brian Riddell: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill 137, Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act, 2023, introduced by the great member from Richmond Hill. The issue at hand in this proposed legislation is one that will affect every Ontarian in one way or another, and I am very proud that the member from Richmond Hill is seeking to address the significant demographic shift that is happening in Ontario. The proposed legislation acknowledges the significance of our population changes and underscores the importance of adapting our way of thinking to accommodate the evolving needs of our population.

It is no secret that the number of seniors in this province is growing dramatically. As the member from Richmond Hill eloquently mentioned, the Ontario Ministry of Finance predicts that the number of seniors aged 65 and over is set to increase from 2.8 million people in 2022 to 4.4 million people by 2046. This demographic shift is a phenomenon that is reshaping the landscape of our province. It encompasses changes in population dynamics, economic trends and social structures. This affects everything from job opportunities and housing needs to health care demands and educational priorities.

Bill 137 has a simple mission: Its aim is to stimulate and facilitate dialogues among the people of Ontario well in advance of their retirement years. The outcome of this bill envisions a future where the people of Ontario, by planning ahead, can make the most of their silver years, contributing to their own well-being while strengthening their communities.

The member from Richmond Hill was correct in pointing out that we have wrongly approached the concept of aging by focusing too heavily on the negative aspects of it; in doing so, we have ignored longevity as an opportunity—an opportunity that we have before us now. By changing the culture of aging, we can help prevent the harm caused by failing to plan for the financial, physical and mental costs of growing old.

Financially, inadequate planning for your silver years can result in economic hardship, strained resources, and difficulties in accessing essential services and support. This may lead to seniors struggling to maintain their quality of life that they’ve had their whole life or facing unexpected financial crises that can affect their entire families. Additionally, unpreparedness for seniors’ needs can strain family relationships and place a substantial burden on caregivers, who may find themselves unprepared for the responsibilities and challenges associated with supporting a loved one.

I find it very unfortunate that meaningful discussions about the care and living arrangements of our seniors are only started after a crisis has happened—usually, when a loved one experiences a sudden decline in health or faces an unforeseen medical emergency or is admitted to a hospital. That’s not the time to be thinking of your golden and silver years. These moments are emotionally and logistically challenging for seniors and their families, and I would like for these conversations to take place well before such situations occur. Proactive planning and open conversations can help avoid the distressing scenario of unforeseen hospital admissions serving—

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Thank you. You’ve run out of time.

We’re going to go back to the member for Richmond Hill for a two-minute reply.

Mrs. Daisy Wai: I want to say thank you, and I appreciate the passionate contributions from my colleagues. I’d like to thank the member from Thunder Bay–Superior North, the member from Whitby, the member from Eglinton–Lawrence, as well as the member from Cambridge. Each one of you says it so eloquently—and you get the point of why we need to have this special Bill 137, the Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week Act.

I want to elaborate on one point. The member from Cambridge said it right; we don’t want to wait until we have a crisis. I have seen, as I was serving as a board member for Mackenzie Health, the head nurse come to me and share in our meeting, saying that it is really difficult when seniors are admitted into the hospital and they need the help. When all the treatments are done and they’re ready to be dismissed, they do not know whether they can go home, because their children are not ready to accept them at home, because no one is there to take care of them, and they are not ready to go to long-term care. That’s why we have a lot of problem with ALC patients, and that’s why we have hallway health care. That’s why this government has been working so hard, helping them and transferring them into long-term care. These kinds of things could have been avoided. They could have stayed home a lot earlier and planned a lot of things a lot earlier.

I want to respond to the member from Thunder Bay–Superior North. Even though I heard all the things that you suggested—but we focused just on the planning for silver years—I just want to respond to one thing that you said, that the Ministry for Seniors—we are reducing—

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): I apologize; that’s all the time. The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.

Mrs. Wai has moved second reading of Bill 137, An Act to proclaim Planning for Your Silver Years Awareness Week. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Pursuant to standing order 100(h), the bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole House, unless the member would prefer another committee.

Mrs. Daisy Wai: We are going to refer it to social policy.

The Acting Speaker (Mme Lucille Collard): Is the majority in favour of the bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy? Agreed. The bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, November 1, 2023, at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1840.