Tag Archives: Kindersley

Saskatchewanians who made their mark

I am proud to say that my Canada includes Saskatchewan. Not that I’ve actually spent a lot of time there. I’ve been to a couple of pension conferences in Saskatoon and Regina and in June 2011 I spent a memorable couple of days in Kindersley getting to know the folks at Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

But over the past six years since I started writing for SPP, the province has rarely been out of my thoughts for more than a day or two because I’m always planning my next blog. So when I was watching a recording of the Governor General’s Arts Awards on a rainy July 1st afternoon it occurred to me that Tommy Douglas couldn’t be the only Saskatchewanian who has made a major contribution to our country in the arts, sports, business or politics.  With a little research, I found the online magazine Virtual Saskatchewan and a series of by freelance writer David Yanko:

Saskatchewan’s Own 1
Saskatchewan’s Own 2
Saskatchewan’s Own 3

Each of these pieces lists 25 individuals who have made their mark on both the national and international stage. I have picked only five to profile, but take a look all three of these articles to learn more about the accomplishments of many of the best and brightest who at one time or another have called Saskatchewan home. 

Brent Butt (born August 3, 1966) is a Canadian actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his role as Brent Leroy on the CTV sitcom Corner Gas, which he developed. It was set in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The show averaged a million viewers per episode. Corner Gas received six Gemini Awards, and was nominated almost 70 times for various other awards. In addition, Butt created the hit TV show Hiccups and the 2013 film No Clue. At our place we never missed an episode of Corner Gas, so I’m happy to report that an animated version is in the works.

Brian Dickson was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on March 26, 1973, and subsequently appointed the 15th Chief Justice of Canada on April 18, 1984. He retired on June 30, 1990. Dickson’s tenure as Chief Justice coincided with the first wave of cases under the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which reached the Supreme Court from 1984 onwards. He wrote several very influential judgments dealing with the Charter, and laid the groundwork for the approach the courts have since used to interpret the Charter. Through law school and when I practiced law, I read and cited a number of his important decisions.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, responsible for hits such as Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi, was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort MacLeod, Alberta and grew up in Saskatoon. In 1968, she recorded her first, self-titled album. Other highly successful albums followed. Mitchell won her first Grammy Award (best folk performance) for her 1969 album, Clouds. She has won seven more Grammy Awards since then, in several different categories, including traditional pop, pop music and lifetime achievement. To this day, folk music is my favourite genre and songs like Chelsea Morning and Circle Game have become the soundtrack of my life.

Sandra Schmirler was a Saskatchewan curler who captured three Canadian Curling Championships and three World Curling Championships.  Schmirler also skipped her Canadian team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first year women’s curling was a medal sport. Schmirler sometimes worked as a commentator for CBC Sports, which popularized her nickname “Schmirler the Curler” and claimed she was the only person who had a name that rhymed with the sport she played. Schmirler’s accomplishments caught my imagination and that of the whole country. Sadly, she died in 2000 at 36 of cancer, leaving a legacy that extended far beyond her sport.

It may seem arbitrary to mention two folk singers in an ad hoc selection of notable sons and daughters of Saskatchewan. But Buffy Sainte-Marie is so much more. This Canadian legend is 76 and still going strong. She is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, social activist, philanthropist and visual artist, born February 20, 1941 on Piapot Reserve, SK.

She was an important figure in the Greenwich Village and Toronto folk music revivals in the 1960s, and is perhaps best known for her 1964 anti-war anthem Universal Soldier, which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. On the eve of Canada Day I had the privilege to hear this diminutive giant sing Universal Soldier plus many of her newer releases in person, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. She and her music never seem to grow old.

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Tips from a millennial homeowner

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Click here to listen

Buying a first home used to be a rite of passage for young people in their 20s and 30s. However, even for many millennials with well-paying jobs, buying property in large cities like Toronto or Vancouver has become an elusive dream.

But in smaller centres across the country purchasing a residence is a more practical and affordable option. Nevertheless, even though the sticker price is lower, owning a house is still a big commitment with many potential pitfalls.

That’s why we decided to chat with Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Network Technician Stephen Neiszner (age 29) about his first foray into the real estate market in his home town of Kindersley, Saskatchewan

Q: Stephen, Saskatchewan Pension Plan in Kindersley was your first full-time employment after you graduated from college and you’ve worked there ever since. Where did you live before you bought your apartment?
A: I lived in a rented condo across the street from the Saskatchewan Pension Plan office.

Q:  Why did you decide it was time to take the plunge?
A: I was looking on and off for about a year before I found my place. The thing that sparked it off was that the light in my bedroom was leaking and the landlord had no intention of fixing it.

Q:  Tell me about the property you bought and how much it cost.
A: I bought a 1,000 square foot, 2-bedroom condo in a four-plex, with a small yard for $155,000.

Q: How much did you put down on the $150,000 purchase price?
A: My down payment was 13% of the purchase price, which is about $20,000.

Q: How long did it take you to save up that $20,000?
A: I started saving as soon as I moved into Kindersley in 2008.

Q: How much are your monthly mortgage payments? Are there also monthly condo fees?
A: I make payments every two weeks so my monthly mortgage payments are about $620. There are no condo fees, but I put away $100 from each paycheck just in case of any unexpected expenses. I pay for my own utilities.

Q: Are there any common expenses for services like clearing driveways and care of the yard?
A: Each unit takes care of their own section of the yard. We all pitch in to clean the sidewalks as required.

Q: What percentage of your monthly take-home pay do you actually spend on the mortgage?
A: It’s 27%.

Q: Does that leave you with enough money to also save for retirement and for other things?
A: Yes. I put $50 into my RRSPs every paycheck, $200 into my TFSA, and the amount of $100 for taxes and building upkeep goes into a high interest savings account.

Q: Okay. I imagine you’re also invested in Saskatchewan Pension Plans.
A: I am.

Q: Did you opt for a fixed rate of interest or a floating rate on your mortgage?
A: I went with a variable interest rate.

Q: What are the term and amortization period for your mortgage?
A: My mortgage term is 25 years and amortization period is five years.

Q: Are there any prepayment provisions in the mortgage? Do you plan to make lump sum payments to reduce the principal over time?
A: Yes. I am able to pay back as much as 20% of my original mortgage payment each year. In the future, I think it will be possible to make extra payments, but right now I’m still trying to balance my budget.

Q: How long ago did you actually buy your condo?
A: I bought it in December 2015.

Q: Ah, so it’s your first year. Were there any surprises before or after closing? Any expenses you didn’t budget for?
A: I had a large amount in my TFSA that I was able to pull for my closing expenses. The one thing that really got me was the setup fees for the utilities that I wasn’t expecting, which were almost $500.

Q: Wow. What about telephone? Are you all cell?
A: I am all cell.

Q: Have you ever regretted your decision to purchase an apartment?
A: No, not really. I knew there would be challenges and growing pains. To offset some of the costs, I recently acquired a roommate.

Q: That’s interesting. What advice would you have for potential first-time homeowners in their 20s or 30s? What things should they consider before they make the jump?
A: Save. When you think you have enough money, save some more. Don’t rush into anything. I looked at 20 places before I found this one. Ask a lot of questions, not only to your real estate agent, but to your bank, the home inspector, people you know around town, your parents and friends. Just ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to use the RRSP first-time home buyer’s program. I withdrew $10,000 or half my down payment from my RRSP under this plan.  I have 15 years to pay back the interest free loan.

And also remember, budgeting isn’t just about your mortgage. You have to factor in utilities, vehicles, transportation, food, traveling and insurance. You’ll still want to take holidays, I’m sure. And I have to budget for a new water heater within the first year.

Q: That’s great. Thank you, Stephen. It was a pleasure to talk to you today. Enjoy your new home.
A: Thank you, Sheryl.

******
This is the edited version of the transcript of a podcast recorded in September 2016.

RRSP frenzy

 

With the RRSP deadline a mere three weeks away, we thought providing you with an FYI blog would make this time of year easier for everyone.

Monday, February 29, 2016 is the final day to contribute to your RRSP for the 2015 tax year. SPP contributions must be received at the office in Kindersley on or before that day.

There’s several fast convenient ways to make your SPP contribution in order to meet the deadline.

  • Use your credit card via;
    • yours online banking service;
    • call our office (1-800-667-7153) during regular business hours or;
    • you can use our website.
  • Cheques can be mailed into our office, please make sure you mail them no later than mid February.
  • If you are in the Kindersley area come visit our office and make your contribution in person.

In case you missed it, the SPP balanced fund returned 6.25% in 2015.  The short-term fund return was 0.45% in 2015. You are can see your full returns here.

A couple of weeks ago we posted an SPP quiz in this blog. If you haven’t already taken the quiz, check it out at http://wp.me/p1YR2T-1dI. There is a chance to win prizes!

Finally, watch the snail mail for tax receipt and member statements coming your way over the next month.

You can reach us at info@saskpension.com or check out our website:  saskpension.com.  We have an enhanced wealth calculator that can help you determine how long your money will last in retirement.

Thanks for your continuing support of SPP.

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Saskatchewan ombudsman fights for your rights

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Today I’m interviewing Saskatchewan Ombudsman and Public Disclosure Commissioner Mary McFadyen for savewithpsp.com. She assumed these positions on April 4th, 2014.

Prior to returning to her home province of Saskatchewan to serve in this capacity, Ms. McFadyen was Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada and before that, Director General Legal Services for the office of the Ombudsman for the Department of National Defense and Canadian Forces.

She has a Law Degree from the University of Saskatchewan and an LLM. from the University of London, the London School of Economics.

Today we’re going to talk about her role as Ombudsman, when her office can and can’t help you, and some examples of cases and investigations conducted by her office, including a recent report about the care provided to Mary Warholm.

Thank you for joining me today, Mary. 

Thank you very much for having me.

Q: Now what exactly is an Ombudsman?
A: Well, an Ombudsman is an independent, impartial public official who has the authority and the responsibility to receive and investigate or formally address complaints about government actions, omissions and decisions. When appropriate they can also make findings, recommendations and publish reports.

Q: So tell me a little bit about the mandate of Ombudsman Saskatchewan and the problems your office can help provincial residents resolve.
A: Well, the mandate of Ombudsman Saskatchewan is to take complaints about government actions, decisions or omissions that affect people personally. Most of the government institutions like the Ministries, the Crown corporations, the agencies and the boards fall under our jurisdiction.

We have very wide powers of investigation and we have the ability to talk to anybody to get any documents to determine whether or not the decision was fair or if we can recommend or suggest that it be changed because it was not fair.

Q: You’re primarily provincial. What complaints and government concerns can you not deal with?
A: We can’t deal with anything that’s in the federal jurisdiction or private interest between citizens of a private nature. That’s for the courts. There are very few provincial organizations that do not fall under our jurisdiction but there are some. Rural and urban municipalities are examples of areas that do not fall under our jurisdiction.

Q: If a Saskatchewan resident wants to file a complaint with your office, what is the process they have to follow and is there anything they should do first?
A: Usually an Ombudsman office is one of last resort, which means that people should try to work out the problem that they have with the institution that they have issues with. For example, most organizations have some kind of customer service or complaint resolution office already in their office and those offices are there to hopefully resolve people’s problems to their satisfaction so they don’t need to call us. Those situations should work themselves out. Otherwise we can help.

Q: So do all complaints get investigated and resolved?
A: Out of the complaints that we get (about 2,500 a year) we estimate that about 80% we deal with at the first instance, within a couple weeks. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding between what someone heard and what they think someone said to them. About 20% of complaints would actually go on to be investigated in our office.

Q: And how long would they take?
A: Well, our objective is to get 90% of our files closed within 90 days and we’re pretty good at meeting that. We try to do the big investigations within six months like we did with the recently Margaret Warholm case. Sometimes, depending on a lot of circumstances it can take longer. But we do try to be timely.

Q: So you’ve got offices in Regina and Saskatoon, but I notice you took a road trip to Kindersley and Meadow Lake at the beginning of the year. Was there a particular reason you traveled to these towns or do you regularly set up appointments throughout the province to meet complainants?
A: Well, one of the goals when I was appointed is I wanted to have a look at where complaints come from throughout the province because not everybody lives in Regina and Saskatoon. That was the reason for our road trips to Meadow Lake and to Kindersley.

Q: Interesting. In April of this year, you filed your first annual report. Can you give me examples of a few cases of unfairness that your office investigated and resolved?
A: This year there was a case that very much attracted the public’s interest. It was a senior citizen who had a direct debit to pay her SaskEnergy account.

Every month the bill came and it was paid directly from her checking account. And this went on for ten years. She didn’t really pay much attention to it but she just knew that it got paid. And then after ten years she got a letter from SaskEnergy saying that she now owed $13,000 immediately.

Q: Wow…
A: So that was a lot and as a result she contacted us. What had happened was the pre-authorized payments had been coming out of somebody else’s account for over ten years.

The other person died and when his estate was settled the executor found this mistake and contacted SaskEnergy realizing that this money had been paid someone else’s bills. So we looked at it and we agreed that it was obvious that this person did owe the money and that SaskEnergy did have the right to collect it.

But we tried to resolve the problem in the best way possible for her. It ended up that SaskEnergy agreed to a smaller lump sum because they understood that they had some responsibility as well because it had been going on for ten years. So the complainant who came to our office paid the lump sum and was very happy to have the issue resolved.

Q: Interesting. Now in mid May of this year, your report “Taking Care, An Ombudsman Investigation Into the Care Provided to Margaret Warholm While a Resident at the Santa Maria Senior Citizen’s Home” was tabled in the legislature and the report included 19 recommendations. What triggered this investigation? What was the issue here?
A: Well, what triggered this investigation is that back in November of 2014 Mrs. Warholm’s family actually went public with concerns about their mother’s care while she was a resident at Santa Maria. They had tried to get information after she died about her care and they found that the answers they received from Santa Maria were not satisfactory and they went to the legislature to express their concerns. The Minister of Health referred the matter to our office for investigation.

In Saskatchewan we have standards of care in the regulations that all long-term care homes must follow when they’re providing care. So we looked at the care Margaret care received when she was at the home and including her bed format, her pain management, nutrition and hydration.

We made ten recommendations directly to Santa Maria that they had to implement. One covered the care of bed sores, because her bed sores were very, very severe.

When we announced we were doing this investigation we got about 89 calls from all over the province, which led us to believe these were not issues for just one long-term care facility within just one health region.  People weren’t sure where to complain and if they did complain they were afraid that there may be reprisal against their loved ones and they wouldn’t be properly cared for.

When we looked at how the whole long term care system works in Saskatchewan we found about 100 care standards that the Ministry of Health has enacted that all long-term care facilities are to follow. Throughout this whole system there was actually nobody monitoring or making sure that the standards of care were actually being met.

Q: That’s frightening because we’re all going to be there eventually.
A: It is. That is a very good point because we did make recommendations that the Ministry of Health and the health regions have to make sure that people actually understand what it means and that the homes are actually putting processes in place to make sure that they are meeting the standards of care for each resident.

Because we had a really tight time frame for doing this investigation, there were lots of things that were mentioned to us that we just did not have an opportunity to look at, nor necessarily was my role to do so as an Ombudsman.

The last recommendation that we made was that they really have to determine what the future needs of long term care patients in Saskatchewan are and come up with a plan to address it because, you’re right, we’re all getting older and because this problem is not going to go away, it needs to be tackled.

Q: So how do you enforce your recommendations?
A: Well, as an Ombudsman we only make recommendations. But in this case, we notified the organizations, the Ministry, the health regions, and Santa Maria that we will follow up within six months to see how they’re progressing with the recommendations.

One of the benefits of being an Ombudsman is we do have the power to go public with what we recommend. Lots of times just shining attention on an issue is enough to get the government moving on something.

Q: That sounds like you’ve made a tremendous contribution to the province and if you can keep the heat on….
A: Yes, I think it was. We tried to write our report so that it was very reader-friendly.  Our goal was  to set out some very basic information about how long-term care works in the province to facilitate a good discussion about going forward and how we’re going to tackle this issue.

Q: Well, that’s really interesting. Thank you very much, Mary for talking to me today.
A: You’re welcome.

Derek Foster tours Saskatchewan

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In October best-selling author and self-proclaimed “idiot millionaire”, Derek Foster, toured Saskatchewan talking to people about how to invest in their future.   He spoke to groups in Regina, Saskatoon, North Battleford and Kindersley about his straightforward approach to investing and why he thinks SPP is a “no brainer” for people looking for a retirement savings plan.

If you missed hearing Derek’s presentation, we’ve captured several media interviews from his visit to Saskatchewan:

Global Morning News Regina on October 23, 2014:  http://goo.gl/19f8gU;

Global Morning News Saskatoon on October 28, 2014:  http://goo.gl/6q8kUO;

CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning on October 30, 2014:  http://goo.gl/0OZGjh.

Do you have any money saving tips that you use to help build your retirement fund? Share your ideas with us, http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.