COVID-19: State of public health emergency declared. Mandatory measures are in effect.
I’m Josephine Pon, the MLA for Calgary-Beddington, and I’m honoured to serve as Minister of Seniors and Housing.
Since my appointment in April 2019, I’ve spent my time ensuring older Albertans receive the programs and services they need, and helping transform the province’s affordable housing system to address growing needs and improve accessibility.
In keeping with this government’s mandate and my own financial services background, I’m keen to make the numerous programs and services my ministry delivers as sustainable as possible. I’m also eager to reduce administrative red tape and make processes easier, more effective and less costly.
Promises made, promises delivered
Seniors and Housing has worked tirelessly to deliver on a number of platform commitments this government was elected to implement, including:
- Maintaining seniors benefits for those who are most in need, ensuring the most vulnerable seniors can count on a stable source of income.
- Creating an Affordable Housing Review Panel to bring a new vision for affordable housing into focus.
- Introducing options for public-private partnerships (P3s) in affordable housing.
- Expanding the use of mixed-income housing that enables people, including seniors, to continue living in their communities.
Actions during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 created a series of complex of which Albertans have never encountered before. It hasn’t been easy, but this government’s agile and comprehensive response has helped us cope with the pandemic and allowed us to move quickly to the recovery stage.
Seniors and Housing has worked closely with Alberta Health to provide expert input to various public health orders since the pandemic started. Early on, my ministry proactively identified the need for large amounts of personal protective equipment to be purchased and distributed to seniors lodges and self-contained housing. More than 1.3 million masks were distributed to seniors and seniors-serving organizations in the first four months of the pandemic.
The ministry also secured funding – $2.9 million a month – for seniors lodge and housing operators so they could continue operating their facilities during very difficult and uncertain times.
In the lead up to Alberta’s economic relaunch in June 2020, my ministry worked closely with seniors organizations to develop reopening guidelines. The hundreds of seniors centres and other community organizations throughout our province provide a wide range of services and programs that help older Albertans stay healthy and connected to their communities.
The Affordable Housing Review I mentioned earlier began July 9, 2020, with the appointment of a 10-person expert panel chaired by Mickey Amery, the MLA for Calgary-Cross. The panel is busy speaking to a wide range of stakeholders right now, gathering information for its report, which I look forward to receiving in late September.
While I met with more than a thousand seniors, hundreds of caregivers and representatives from numerous organizations in my first 11 months as minister, I have not made any in-person visits since early March 2020. I look forward to visiting with seniors in September, as public health orders permit. I can’t wait to get back to visiting with seniors, even if we are chatting through our masks and at the appropriate distance.
Seniors have lived through difficult times and they have considerable wisdom to share with us. In so many ways, seniors are the strength of Alberta.