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Queen's University

Presidential News and Views, Summer 2007

CURAC Conference perspective made RAQ look good

Hello, fellow retirees! It is an honour to be your new president and to follow John Meisel and Joyce Zakos, who each did such an able job (along with a number of other founding RAQ members) in getting our organization up and running. I came to Queen's in 1969 after a few years teaching Nursing at the University of Toronto and the University of New Brunswick Each of the seven universities at which I spent time as either a student or a faculty member demonstrated its own culture. The "Queen's way" is familiar to us all, even though it may have evolved over the decades. Queen's has been a good place to work, and it is hard for me to believe that more than ten years have now passed since I retired.

What's new with RAQ?

In June, the Executive and Council approved making John Meisel Honorary President of RAQ in recognition of his major contribution to the association and his skill in establishing positive relationships among members and with the university administration. Recently RAQ also strengthened its ties with the College and University Retirees Association of Canada (CURAC) through the election of George Brandie, RAQ Vice-President, as Secretary of the national body.

News from the CURAC Conference

In May, Queen's provided financial support for me to attend CURAC's 5th annual three-day conference, held this year in Windsor. CURAC is made up of retirees from colleges and universities across Canada. It produces an interesting newsletter and publishes reports of committees and some proceedings from annual conferences on its web site:

Several CURAC Committee reports may be of interest to you.

The Non-medical Benefits Committee reported that a survey regarding non-medical benefits for retirees had illustrated various levels of these benefits in different institutions.

The Housing Committee reported that Laval is planning a large residential complex on campus. 150 units will be for retirees. UBC also plans housing on campus that includes a residence for seniors. The University of Toronto continues to explore the housing issue.

The Committee on Support for Continuing Professional Activities of University and College Retirees contacted several national Funding Councils. Results were positive regarding moral support for retiree research, but nothing tangible re seed money or small grants for pilot projects came out of that.

The CURAC Conference focused on pensions and health care. Across the country there are concerns about the sustainability of pensions. Similar pressures are being felt within universities and colleges as elsewhere in the work force. Many pension plans are dealing with un-funded liabilities. This situation has come about because of decreased returns on pension investments in recent years and pensioners' increased longevity. There is universal concern about support for pension plans from an aging, downsized workforce. No matter which approach is used for annual pension adjustments, few plans have been able to offer increases in recent years. On the brighter side, investment returns are improving (or were in May), and the Canada Pension Plan is considered by experts to be on sound footing. Queen's retirees have been most fortunate in this area, as you can read in Bill Wright's Pensions and Benefits Committee report.

Regarding health care for seniors, shortage of resources and cost of care were major concerns. Home care is in short supply across the country. The CURAC Healthcare Policy Committee's discussion paper focuses on problems with Canada's healthcare system, and a lengthy report is available in the CURAC newsletter on their web page.

The University of Windsor and St. Clair College did an excellent job of planning and running an interesting conference It was enjoyable to mix with retirees from across the country and to acquire a broader perspective that makes it clear what a good association we have at Queen's when it comes to social and intellectual events, pensions and benefits, and co-operation with the administration.

ARLENE AISH, President

If you would like to comment, please contact Arlene Aish

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000