Former high school chaplain Filomena Tassi will fill the new position
By Matt Smith
The cabinet shuffle on July 18 included the appointment of a new minister of seniors. Hamilton MP Filomena Tassi was chosen for the position. Tassi is currently serving her first term as MP and has been representing the riding of Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas since 2015.
The minister of seniors position existed within the previous Conservative government, but under the Liberals, its portfolio was spread over various departments. According to a government statement, the position has been reinstated with a mandate to help the government “better understand the needs of Canadian seniors and ensure that programs and services are developed that respond to Canada’s aging population.” This includes concerns such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security programs, as well as making sure that seniors have access to homecare and affordable housing.
Tassi, 56, brings a personal connection to this appointment—her 89-year-old mother. Before entering politics, the minister worked first as a corporate lawyer and then spent 20 years as a high school chaplain. Much of her chaplaincy work has been community-oriented and included programs to connect students and seniors. Prior to her appointment, Tassi hosted “tea and talk” sessions with seniors in her Hamilton riding. She stressed the importance of communication in an interview with the National Post, saying, “we want to ensure we collaborate with all levels of government and organizations who are working with seniors.”
At this moment it’s not clear whether Tassi will be heading a standalone department or be part of a larger one. Nonetheless, the move represents an effort from the federal government to better support its senior citizens. This is perhaps more important than ever due to Canada’s aging population. The 2016 census reported that seniors make up 17% of all Canadians—a figure that is expected to rise to 23% by 2031. This year’s federal budget anticipates increased spending on seniors benefits to reflect this, to the tune of over 5%. With the appointment of the new minister, we can hope that the government’s commitment to seniors’ issues goes above and beyond the financial.