Government Support for Seniors: Question Period – 4 May 2017

Here is the video and transcript of oral questions today recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

Mr. Coon: Yesterday, the government of Canada released the census numbers identifying New

Brunswick and Nova Scotia as provinces with the largest population of seniors, at just close to

20%. Seniors make a tremendous contribution to our society and will continue to do so.

Sometimes it just requires us to ask them.

In January, the Premier’s Council on Aging tabled a report identifying goals and actions that the

government could set to ensure that our province supports New Brunswick’s seniors in their

elder years when they require that. Yesterday’s census report reinforces the urgency with which

we need to implement these recommendations. Can the Premier tell us when he expects to

implement the recommendations from the Council on Aging?

Hon. Mrs. Harris: The latest StatsCan data does not surprise the provincial government, as we

have been preparing for these increases in seniors for a long time. I would just like to say that it

was this government and this Premier that recognized that this was happening and named a

seniors minister for this important file. As well, it was this Premier who created the Council on

Aging, which has done some very important work. Staff members in my department are

currently preparing the implementation plan, which will be unveiled very shortly. We are

certainly preparing to be able to move forward with this framework. This is going to be the guide

that is going to allow us to make sure that we are meeting the needs of seniors right here in New


Mr. Coon: I think it is important to get specific. One of the key recommendations of the Council

on Aging was for the government to establish a dementia strategy. Such a strategy would include

a plan with respect to community-based dementia care, increased dementia training for those in

the health and home care sectors, the creation of a mobile crisis unit to support those living in the

community with dementia and to support their families, and to align with the national dementia

strategy. There is some urgency to get this enacted, for sure. The question is this: Will the

Premier tell this House when New Brunswickers can expect to see a dementia strategy fully

implemented and in place?

Mrs. Harris: The Council on Aging presented its Aging Strategy to the provincial government

in January. This multiyear strategy positions the province to be a leader in aging care. The

actions in the strategy, in both the long and the short term, address key areas that will improve

care in the aging sector and foster relationships between governments, community groups, and

other organizations.

We certainly understand that dementia is a very important piece. We are waiting to see when we

are going to implement those decisions, those suggestions that were made by the Council on

Aging. We are certainly looking forward to getting to work to put some of the great ideas into

place and continuing to make sure that we are having great discussions and collaborations with

many departments across the government to ensure that we have the best quality of life for our

seniors here in New Brunswick.

Mr. Coon: Seniors certainly want to see action. Another key recommendation of the Council on

Aging was to refurbish municipal infrastructure and services so that, in fact, their communities

are age-friendly, which, in many cases, they are not. The point is to “enable the full participation

of older adults in local economic, social, civil and cultural life”, as the Council on Aging said.

To achieve this will, in fact, require financial assistance from the provincial government to

ensure that the municipalities can afford to upgrade their infrastructure and services to actually

be age-friendly.

Will the Premier commit to targeting infrastructure funding specifically for municipalities so that

they are able to make existing infrastructure and services actually age-friendly?

Hon. Mr. Gallant: We appreciate the questions coming from the leader of the third party. We

just want to say a few things. Age-friendly communities are an important part of the strategy.

We take very seriously the fact that there are demographic challenges facing New Brunswick.

We also recognize that having more seniors is an opportunity in many ways as well. We are

working very hard to ensure that seniors will be able to retire with dignity in the province, that

they will be able to stay in their homes as long as possible, and that they can contribute as long

as possible to the economy of our province.

I do just want to address the preamble of the questions. It had to do with an aging demographic. I

want to assure New Brunswickers that we are working very hard to buck the trend as best as we

possibly can. We are investing to strategically grow the economy and to create jobs. We are

investing in education. Through the Family Plan, we want to make sure that our families and

communities are as healthy as possible. So, yes, we will ensure that seniors get the support they

need, but we will also try to buck the population growth . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time, Premier.