Posted on Apr 15, 2021


EDMONTON - NDP Seniors Critic Lori Sigurdson is introducing new legislation that, if passed, will establish an independent Alberta Seniors’ Advocate.


“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed unacceptable failures in how seniors are treated and cared for in Alberta,” Sigurdson said. “Seniors need a champion but they do not have one in the UCP. I’ve heard from so many Alberta families who have suffered immensely through the pandemic and didn’t know where to turn. Over 1, 200 residents in continuing care facilities have died from COVID-19 and change is needed now.” 


Through Bill 215: Seniors Advocate Act, the Seniors Advocate would be an independent officer of the legislature charged with helping seniors navigate seniors services, providing policy recommendations to the government, and having the ability to conduct reviews on services providers to ensure seniors’ needs are met.


Sigurdson was Minister of Seniors and Housing during the NDP government and appointed a seniors advocate. The UCP abolished this office in 2019 and folded it into the Health Advocate’s and Mental Health Patient Advocate’s offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro personally cancelled a competitive process to select a qualified candidate for the new role and instead appointed former UCP executive director, Janice Harrington. 


“Seniors have been hit harder by the pandemic than anyone, and I have heard nothing from the UCP loyalist who is supposed to be their advocate,” said Sigurdson. “She is clearly more interested in covering for Shandro than in speaking up for seniors.


“An independent advocate would be free to actually drive meaningful change.”


Rick Brick is a District Director of the National Association of Federal Retirees, which has over 170,000 members in Canada and 12,000 in Alberta. He joined Sigurdson to support this bill. 


“If Premier Kenney and Minister Pon had not eliminated the Seniors Advocate in December 2019, that valuable resource would have been there to help elderly Albertans as we are dealing with the COVID pandemic,” said Brick.  “Effective and timely advice and action from the government based on the evidence presented to them from a true Seniors Advocate might have helped mitigate that crisis.”


Edith Wilson is a senior who provides care for her 81-year-old husband with dementia and asbestosis, and believes the UCP should have done more to protect seniors from COVID-19 and should also provide more support for Albertans navigating seniors’ services. 


“My husband needs substantial assistance for both physical and cognitive reasons. He can’t comb his hair, reach for his plate when he eats, or dress himself. Getting adequate support from the government is challenging,” said Wilson. “People in my situation often feel like their only option is to give up. A strong seniors advocate would make a significant difference in seniors’ lives.”