When West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country is mentioned in Ottawa our name invokes big smiles as people share stories of their holidays and joke about how tough it must be to live in a place that’s called the Sunshine Coast. Imagine how excited Minister of Seniors Filomena Tassi was to be joining us, then, in February – away from the bitter cold of Ottawa and the snow of her hometown in Hamilton, Ontario?
On February 11th it snowed. Traffic advisories recommended staying home. Downtown Vancouver was a slushy mess. Regardless, I picked the minister up at her hotel. Thankfully, she had her Ottawa coat with her. My fairly reasonable expectation of spectacular photos on the ferry ride were dashed by the non-sunshine, overcast, grey, chilling day.
Meanwhile everyone was all set at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre. Really, it was just another bustling day at the beautifully renovated centre. We toured around, stirred the soup in the expanded kitchen and met in a small group with people who care for partners with dementia, and who pressed upon the minister the need to work with provinces toward a national caregiver support strategy.
Next, Minister Tassi addressed a full house on her role in advocating for seniors and her interest in hearing from us. Previously, Minister Tassi has been a lawyer and a high school chaplain, and she brings an informed and compassionate approach to her role. She knows that the Sunshine Coast Seniors Planning Table has been instrumental in advocating for a Minister of Seniors and in raising the profile of seniors’ issues in Canada. Our open meeting focused on housing, poverty, isolation, support for caregivers and concern for the exploitation of seniors through fraud.
Following the town hall meeting, Minister Tassi met at a roundtable of several Seniors Planning Table representatives. She gained an understanding of the valuable work they have done over the past several years and left with food for thought about how the success of this model could benefit the government and communities across Canada.
As Minister Tassi met with the Seniors Planning Table representatives, I spoke with others who were not part of that group but who were wishing to meet with me on other matters. At one point I looked back into the dining room and Anne Titcomb and Minister Tassi were hugging. Thank you to the advocates and volunteers who contribute so much to our community and to Canada. That’s the Sunshine Coast every day, even when it snows.
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