From time to time seniors have asked me why there is an advocate for children and youth, but not for seniors. That is about to change. The Legislative Assembly passed a bill before the Christmas break to expand the responsibilities of our Child and Youth Advocate, Norm Bossé, to include seniors.
The Child, Youth and Seniors Advocate is an officer of the Legislature, as are the Auditor General and the Ombudsman. They are accountable to the Legislative Assembly, not to a government department or to the Premier. The Legislative Assembly is responsible for ensuring that recommendations made by these officers are actually implemented.
What will this mean for seniors? They will be able to call the office of the Seniors advocate to file a complaint about just about anything that concerns them. A case file will be established,and the office will investigate and seek a solution for that senior. It it’s something that requires a change in government policy, practice, or regulation, the Seniors Advocate will encourage the Legislative Assembly to bring it about.
The Child and Youth Advocate publishes a regular “State of the Child” report, along with reports on specific issues concerning youth. I expect to ultimately see similar work on behalf of seniors, although the mandate of the Seniors Advocate remains undefined.
Much to my surprise, the government did not table a bill that spelled out the legislated mandate for this work. Instead, their bill amended the legislation that created the Child and Youth Advocate by simply adding the word senior wherever it mentions children and youth.
Mr. Bossé is working hard to flesh out his mandate. He has agreed to meet with my Seniors Round Table to hear their views on the mandate of his office. I would like to see the Standing Committee on Social Policy hold hearings so MLAs can hear directly from seniors and seniors’ organizations.
I am a member of the Legislative Administration Committee which decides on the budgets for all the Legislative Officers that will be sent to the Legislative Assembly for debate and approval. I worked hard to ensure the Child and Youth Advocate will have the necessary money to get the Office of the Seniors Advocate up and running, without compromising the ongoing work on behalf of children and youth.
There will also be changes for two other legislative officers. The Right to Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest Commissioner will be combined into a single Legislative Officer to be called the Integrity Commissioner. This combined role will be the responsibility of Alexandre Deschênes. Beginning this September, he will also be given responsibility for administering the new Lobbyist Registry. New Brunswick and PEI remain the only two provinces in Canada currently without lobbyist registries.
The Legislative Assembly resumed sitting January 31. I am pleased to say that a calendar outlining our parliamentary schedule for the year will be published for the first time on the Legislative Assembly website.