Strange politics in an election year

BraidMeet the Chair of the Conservative Party’s insurance caucus, Peter Braid

Perhaps the constituents of MP, Peter Braid (Kitchener-Waterloo) can be more successful than I have been in opening up a conversation with him. Over the last couple of months I’ve sent several communications to Mr. Braid (see last email below) and as of yet, no response. That’s strange in an election year. And what’s even stranger is the fact that Mr. Braid is head of the Conservative’s insurance caucus and I have attempted to communicate with him on an important life insurance issue, not to mention that I have been affiliated with the life insurance industry for more than fifty years.


I am not sure if it is lack of respect or a lack of political savvy. Either way, I don’t think Mr. Braid is familiar with the axiom espoused by the late Tip O’Neill, US Speaker of the House, who said, “All politics is local.” In other words, politicians need to pay attention to what the voters are asking. And I have been asking Mr. Braid some tough questions – on behalf of his voters – regarding life settlements and the opportunity that they can provide in helping seniors with their financial difficulties. He might be able to ignore me, but he ignores the needs of seniors at his peril.


harper“Give people options … voluntary choices”

It appears as if Mr. Braid is not only ignoring his constituents on this issue but also the thinking and counsel of his boss, Prime Minister Harper. Harper, in a post-budget comment said, “Our government does not believe in forcing Canadians into a single, compulsory one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why we give people options, voluntary choices to help us save …. What we will not suggest is raising taxes on workers that they don’t want to pay and claiming it is, quote, for their own good, and then hitting small businesses with tax hikes that small business cannot afford to pay.” That’s a pretty clear direction: “… give people options” and “voluntary choices’ that do not cause “tax hikes.”


Well, that’s exactly what I want to discuss with Mr. Braid – how life settlements can offer seniors a valid option for accessing greater value in their policies if and when they need it rather than relying on taxpayer money. But his lack of response suggests that “options,” “voluntary choices” and open discussion are not his idea of collaboration.


MulroneyTo lead or avoid change?

Perhaps Mr. Braid might consider the words that former Conservative Prime Minster, Brian Mulroney wrote this week (May 4, 2015) in a Globe and Mail article. Mulroney, speaking of leaders, said, “they must be ready to endure the attacks that often accompany profound or controversial change, while they await the distant and compelling sounds of a verdict that only history and a more reflective nation can render in the fullness of time.” Will Mr. Braid choose to lead or avoid?


In Mr. Braid’s own words

On November 18, 2014, Mr. Braid introduced Donald Gulioen, CEO Manulife and Chair of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), at an industry “Advocacy Day” in Ottawa as they celebrated the industry’s accomplishments (see previous blog below).


I was encouraged by Mr. Braid’s words when he said, “My community has deep roots in the insurance industry and I also have worked in the sector … so I have a good understanding of the important role that insurance companies play in providing security for Canadians and strengthening our national economy.” He added that the industry was “committed to enhancing the well being of families and communities across our great country. Today’s Advocacy Day provides an excellent opportunity to further collaborate on our shared goals.”  Based on his views, I decided to open up a dialogue with Mr. Braid.


“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Sun Tzu (and Michael Corleone, Godfather Part II)

Michael Corleone

Michael Corleone

Friends or enemies?

It has been several months and nothing from Mr. Braid and yet, when it comes to the best interests of seniors, I assume Mr. Braid and I are on the same side. My goal is to advocate for doing what is best for seniors but I have no idea what Mr. Braid’s ideas might be concerning the “well being” of more than a million Canadian seniors in need. What I do know, from evidence around the world, is that life settlements are of significant financial benefit to seniors.


I sent him a copy of my book, Why Are Seniors Worth More Dead Than Alive? and other documentation regarding seniors’ financial plight and the potential of life settlements, so I know he has lots of information for a dialogue. But guess what? As I continue to distribute information via my blog, Mr. Braid has “unsubscribed.” Obviously, his concept of collaboration is different than mine, and I’ll bet different from what voters consider collaboration.


I expected Mr. Braid, Chair of his Party’s insurance caucus, to lead an in depth discussion on the merits of life settlements, not opt to avoid my questions. However, I suspect he thinks life settlements are a “controversial change” and that if he was to engage in a conversation, he might, as Brian Mulroney says, have to “endure the attacks” of his friends and supporters in the life insurance industry. That’s unfortunate – for his constituents and Canadian seniors everywhere.



 My latest email to Mr. Braid

Mr. Braid, during the past few months I have delivered to you well researched evidence of an egregious disservice being perpetrated on millions of Canadian seniors, (read voters). You have not only ignored my material but elected to unsubscribe to further information. I shall continue to advocate for these seniors, most of who desperately need these funds to improve quality of life and perhaps remove many from government subsidies.  A number of years ago, Tory MP Frank Sheehan, Chair of a legislative committee appointed to look at the matter, when questioned by noted columnist James Daw as to why nothing has happened on this subject responded, “The government’s legislative agenda is too busy. We just can’t free up the market without giving thought to the potential for abuse.” Fair enough!


Do you not think that more than 15 years is enough time for your party Mr. Braid?  Who are we considering here, seniors or life insurance companies?


That is the question I will be asking the numerous seniors groups, (voters?) inviting me to appear before their various chapters during the coming months.


I shall be pleased to discuss with you!

The elephant in the room for Canadian seniors …



 Why is no one talking about a great source of cash for seniors – life settlements?

Over 600,000 Canadian seniors are living in poverty. Another 600,000 are still in the workforce. Many more are struggling financially. And the government and advocacy groups like the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) seem to be scrambling to help them. And yet, no one is talking about an asset class that belongs to millions of seniors who own a life insurance policy – life settlements.


elephant-cartoonFour times the cash value

For those of you who are not aware of the elephant in the room – life settlements – let me briefly explain.


A life settlement pertains to the sale of an unneeded in force life insurance policy for an amount that is more than the policy’s cash surrender value but less than its death benefit. A study by the London Business School of over 9,000 life insurance policies that had been transacted as life settlements showed that, on average, those polices received more than four times the cash value that they would have received as cash surrender value from the insurance companies. And, of course, many term policies would have received nothing.


The elephant

The problem is that life settlements are not available to Canadian seniors. And that’s an egregious oversight by governments and advocacy groups.


Oliver-1Pre-election budget to benefit seniors

Worse, no one is talking to seniors about the financial upside that life settlements could offer them. In an April 17, 2015 Globe and Mail article by Bill Curry, Pre-election budget to benefit seniors, including relaxation of RRIF rules, there is a lot of talk and hope about new budget measures – and that is good – but it is obvious that life settlements are not part of the conversation – yet.



In a word, ignorance. Governments are either uninformed or misinformed and abdicating their responsibility to seniors. And advocacy groups like CARP and the Financial Planners Association of Canada (Advocis) are not acting in the best interests of their members by ignoring the benefits life settlements can offer seniors.


Where do senior elephants go for honesty?

Why are we keeping seniors in the dark?


Where do seniors go for honesty?

Seniors are kept in the dark, having no idea what life settlements are about or how they could benefit from them. And the insurance companies intend to keep it that way as long as possible.


Don’t get me wrong. Life insurance and life insurance companies are very important to over 21 million Canadians and I have been proudly affiliated with the industry for over fifty years. Life insurance companies provide a valuable service and do many good things – except on this issue of life settlements. On this, they are failing their customers. They are serving their own self-interests, not those of their customers, their representatives (financial planners and brokers), their shareholders or their country.


If seniors have heard anything about life settlements from their insurer or financial planner or broker it is probably erroneous and misleading information about how life settlements are a “serious risk” (see CLHIA lawyer letter below and my response). That is nothing but propaganda and spin. It only benefits the insurance companies and deprives policy owners of their right to receive fair market value for an asset they own – their life insurance policy. I have covered all the fundamentals about this in my book, Why Are Canadian Seniors Worth More Dead Than Alive?, and numerous blogs and media coverage (see Media).


globeandmail-logoThe media?

The Canadian media have ignored this issue for years. They too are either ignorant of the facts or uninspired to dig into them. This is an example of where a little investigative journalism is needed. Or as Pulitzer-Prize journalist, Seymour Hersh says, “Our job is to find out for ourselves, our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and whose wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough.” And I, as an advocate for Canadian seniors, say that there’s no debate in the media about life settlements. It is not happening and yet, it would go a long way in serving the public interest, especially millions of seniors in need of financial help, now, not after they’re dead.


Around the world, well-regulated life settlement industries are providing billions of dollars to seniors, which in turn streams money into the economy and relieves the cost of government programs. As I have said before, it is a win-win-win.


Instead, it remains the elephant in the room for Canadian seniors.


BraidOpportunity – it’s election time

We all know that the one time elected officials pay extra attention is during election campaigns so now is the time to bring out the elephant. And seniors can bring a large elephant to the ballot box. As Bill Curry points out, 75 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 cast ballots in the 2011 election.

It’s time to ask every candidate, and every MPP – election or no election – where they stand on life settlements. And politicians like Peter Braid, MP in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding where many insurance companies reside, should have answers. He used to be in the insurance business and is head of the Conservative’s insurance caucus. I intend to see him at some all-candidates meetings because he has yet to respond to any of my correspondence and questions. Also, he “unsubscribed” from this blog, which I expect will mean he remains uninformed about how life settlements could help his senior constituents.



Of course CARP advocates for seniors and their VP for advocacy, Susan Eng is out front talking to government officials and the media about all they are doing for Canada’s aging-population. According to Bill Curry’s report, Ms. Eng said her preference would be to get rid of the RRIF rules altogether, but a softening of the withdrawal rates would be an improvement over the status quo.


Question for Ms. Eng

I ask Ms. Eng, again: Why are you not advocating “to get rid of” the insidious regulations in provincial legislation that prevent seniors from accessing the fair market value for an asset they already own. And the recent Ontario election would have been a great opportunity to address this issue because Premier Wynne has said the financial problems for seniors is becoming a huge economic burden. But nothing on life settlements from CARP. Ms. Eng is quoted in the article:

“Seniors are really clear-headed about this now (RIFFs). It used be you could say the word ‘seniors’ in your announcement and they’re all for you … There’s going to be no chance you can get away with just saying: ‘We love seniors.'”

This raises a similar question: Why does CARP’s advocacy not include pursuing changes in the regulations so seniors could receive increased cash value  through life settlements? Perhaps Ms. Eng thinks she can “get away with just saying: ‘We love seniors'” and ignore the elephant in the room.


Seniors need to take this issue to their CARP membership meetings, and the ballot box, even if their advocates won’t.