BC FORUM News from the Advocate, Summer 2017
Board of Directors Report from 2017 AGM
“It’s for our members and families that we do this work”
To read the full report, click here.
To read the Resolutions debated at the AGM, click here.
President Diane Wood presented the report of the volunteer Board of Directors as one of the first items of business at BC FORUM’s Annual General Meeting, held June 21 at the UFCW 1518 conference hall in New Westminster.
The report outlined the organization’s activities during the last year, including action to help elect an NDP provincial government, reach out to new members, and work with allies to advance key issues that affect retired workers and their families.
“It’s for our members and families that we do this work,” said Wood.
“It has been a noteworthy year, highlighted by voters’ clear rejection of the Christy Clark BC Liberal government,” said the report.
“As you know, the hard-fought campaign ended in a virtual tie between the BC NDP and the Liberals – a hung Parliament with no single party able to govern without support from the opposition. Most significantly, about 60 per cent of British Columbians voted against ‘more of the same’ from a government that was bought and paid for to put corporate interests ahead of everything else.
“By contrast, the inspiring BC NDP campaign led by John Horgan put people first, directly addressing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of working families and seniors,” the report said.
At the national level, Wood said BC FORUM is working with union allies, the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada and the National Pensioners Federation to “keep an eye on” the federal government. Disturbing news articles have revealed that the government has received a report recommending that the age of eligiblity for Old Age Assistance and the Guaranteed Income Supplement be raised to 67 – a throwback to the Harper government’s plans.
At the local level, BC FORUM is active through regional representatives and labour council delegates.
During debate on the report, John Colbourne, who serves on the South Okanagan Labour Council, stressed the importance of involvement in labour councils. For example, he said the labour council’s work with Protein for People has resulted in a significant increase in the distribution of canned salmon in his region.
Wood thanked all the individual members, unions and supporters who have contributed time, energy, money and in-kind donations. She also noted the need to continue to increase membership to ensure BC FORUM remains a sustainable organization moving forward.
Delegates call for a national drug plan
BC FORUM members who attended the Annual General Meeting unanimously demanded that the federal government pass legislation to provide a national public drug plan.
Recommending support of the resolution, BC FORUM director Russ St. Eloi said bulk buying on a national scale would result in lower costs, as it has in other countries.
St. Eloi also indicated the Canadian Labour Congress will launch a major push to promote public prescription drug coverage this fall.
“A national public drug plan would reduce prescription drug spending by a massive 41 percent, thus saving up to $11.4 billion,” said the resolution adopted by delegates.
“Canada remains the only developed country with a universal health care system that does not include prescription drug coverage,” it said.
Delegates called on federal health minister Jane Philpott to “take a positive stance towards promoting a national drug plan.” They said she should advocate for such a plan as part of a study on the development of a national pharmacare program which is being conducted by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health.
Mark-up on drugs
David Porteous, President of Working Enterprises Consulting and Benefits Services, revealed some startling numbers on how much various pharmacies are adding to the cost of prescriptions.
In a chart based on claims submitted to three insurers, he showed that the average mark-up on the top 30 paid drugs ranged from 1.05 percent at Costco to 25.0 percent at Rexall.
The average mark-ups by other companies were:
• 8.94 percent at Save-on-Foods and London Drugs;
• 9.14 percent at Pricemart Foods;
• 10.03 percent at the Real Canadian Superstore;
• 15.71 percent at Safeway;
• 20.05 percent at Shoppers Drug Mart;
• 20.76 percent at Pharmasave;
• 21.55 percent at Peoples Drug Mart;
• 23.37 percent at the Medicine Shoppe.
More highlights from the AGM
Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour and chair of BC FORUM, highlighted the need for collective political action to counter the rise of right-wing populism in the world, citing Brexit and the election of Trump as examples.
She noted labour and BC FORUM involvement in the BC election, saying it makes a big difference in promoting equality.
• Delegates demanded the federal government develop a national dementia plan that would increase research, promote early diagnosis, strengthen integration of care, enhance skills of workers and support caregivers.
• Speaker after speaker condemned Bill C-27’s attack on pensions as a threat to employees and retirees. Delegates left no doubt they opposed changes that would allow employers to back out of their pension commitments.
• Shades of Stephen Harper: the Trudeau government’s Council of Economic Advisors says Old Age Security (OAS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) “should be recalibrated to meet the Canadian reality of an aging society.”
BC FORUM will oppose any attempt to raise the age of eligibility.
• Delegates debated a wide-ranging resolution calling for a federal strategy that would help provide adequate and affordable housing for all Canadians.
The full text of all resolutions is available here.