Interview with Don Newman

Don Newman, one of Canada’s most respected and trusted journalists will lend his experience and balanced perspective to a national conversation on palliative care in November, 2016. As Chairman of the lay panel for the Palliative Care Matters consensus development phase, Newman’s skill and diplomacy will be drawn upon to help shape a national vision for palliative care. Here he shares his views on the importance of a national approach, and why he feels that now is the time to take action to the benefit of all Canadians.

Why do you believe it is vital to reach a consensus on palliative care in Canada right now?

As the population continues to age the need for palliative care will increase. People live longer, but to an important degree as they live longer they are more susceptible to the illnesses of old age.‎ Dementia and Alzheimer's are just two examples, but there are many others as well.

Going forward, the demand for palliative care will become acute. We must act now to agree on best practices for providing palliative care, how is it to be financed in relation to traditional ongoing health care, and the mix of private care and public care that will be available.

What is it about this initiative that compelled you to become involved?

This initiative has a particular appeal. It has been launched by Covenant Health in Alberta, is being held in Ontario in the national capital of Ottawa and has attracted people from around the country.

Beyond that, it is being held at the time when federal and provincial deputy health ministers are near the end of their negotiations for a new federal-provincial health accord.  

When the last accord was negotiated in 2004, money was specifically committed to the illnesses of the aging baby boomers: cardiac care ‎and joint replacement. Twelve years later priorities have shifted somewhat – and during the life of a new accord, will shift even more.  

Palliative care will become an ever increasing function of the health care system. Now is the time to be thinking how best to deliver it.

Do you know of friends or family members who have received palliative care?

In 1993, a member of my family was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite chemotherapy, a year later she could no longer get out of bed. Fortunately, Ontario had a program of home care for terminally ill cancer patients in the later stages of life. Through that system of palliative care she was able to remain to the end in her home --- something that was very important to her.

What would you like to see as the legacy of this initiative? 

The legacy of this conference should be threefold.

Public awareness that palliative care is an increasingly large and important part of health care in Canada is primary.

From that must come a consensus ‎ on minimum standards of care across the country, adequate funding to provide them, and ready accessibility when required.

Finally, the Canadian people need to take ownership of our findings, and through them the country's ministers of health and the governments in which they serve.

If that all happens, then Canadians will have a program of palliative care across the nation worthy of a compassionate, 21st century country.

News Release - Launch of Palliative Care Matters

July 21, 2016

Covenant Health and National Partners launch Palliative Care Matters

  • Palliative Care Matters is creating a national strategy and roadmap by asking Canadians what they want to see happen.
  • The initiative is supported by 13 organizations and co‐chaired by Karen Macmillan, SOO of Covenant Health and Fred Horne, former Alberta health minister.
  • Former broadcaster Don Newman will chair the lay panel at the Consensus Development Conference.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Lack of consistent, reliable access to high‐quality palliative care services is a serious concern for many Canadians.

Palliative Care Matters is a national initiative designed to talk with Canadians about their views and lived experiences, review the most current evidence, and develop consensus on the steps that need to be taken now to ensure Canadians in all parts of the country can access high‐quality palliative care services as part of Canada’s universal healthcare model.

Covenant Health has joined with many of Canada’s leading national health organizations and experts in palliative care and health policy to lead this initiative. The initiative is being co‐chaired by Karen Macmillan, Senior Operating Officer of Covenant Health with lead in palliative care and Fred Horne, former Alberta health minister and health policy advisor.

Palliative Care Matters features Canada’s first consensus development conference on palliative care. Research done by the national polling firm Ipsos will inform the work of the initiative and The Conference Board of Canada will prepare a report after the conference outlining potential policy options and considerations for implementation.

Palliative Care Matters has three phases:

  • Over the summer a poll of 1500 Canadians will be conducted to find out what Canadians think, the services and supports they value most, and their views on access and approaches.
  • A Consensus Development Conference will follow on November 7‐9, 2016 in Ottawa. At the conference, a lay panel will study what Canadians said and hear from experts on the key issues that need to be addressed in order to improve palliative care. The lay panel is being chaired by Don Newman, one of Canada’s most respected journalists and an award winning broadcaster. Following their deliberations the lay panel will issue a consensus statement detailing their findings and proposing next steps.
  • The consensus statement will be at the heart of a roadmap for Canada released by The Conference Board of Canada early in 2017. The strategy will outline policy options and implementation plans to guide governments, health care delivery organizations, professionals and other stakeholders.

Palliative care provides comfort and support to patients and families during a life limiting illness, the end stages of life, and when dealing with grief and loss.

Interested Canadians are invited to sign up for more information at


“Ensuring that everyone has compassionate care at every stage of their life journey is our mission at Covenant Health. This is critically important as a person’s life draws to a close. That’s why Covenant Health is working with national partners to listen to what Canadians have to say, develop consensus on a palliative care approach for Canada, and bring this important issue to the forefront of our discussions about Canada’s health system in the future.” Karen Macmillan, Senior Operating Officer, Covenant Health, and Co‐Chair, Palliative Care Matters.

“With the recent passage of Bill C‐14, Canadians are now assured of access to medical assistance in dying. We now need to turn our attention to how Canada’s universal healthcare model can provide consistent access to high quality palliative care. Palliative Care Matters provides Canadians with an opportunity to express their views and, through the Consensus Development Conference, address key questions around how Canada should proceed.” Fred Horne, former Alberta Minister of Health and Co‐ Chair, Palliative Care Matters.

“We can’t escape the end of life. All Canadians, some day, will need to make decisions about the care we or someone we love receive in the last part of our journey. I’m honoured to be leading a panel of my fellow Canadians as we examine how we can live well with a life limiting illness or at the end of our life.” Don Newman, C.M., Senior Counsel, Navigator.

About Covenant Health and the Palliative Institute:

Covenant Health is Canada’s largest Catholic health care organization, providing compassionate, quality care to people of all faiths and traditions as a key partner in Alberta’s integrated health system. As a major provider of palliative care in the province, Covenant Health established the Palliative Institute, which is committed to relieving suffering for patients and their families.

For more information on Steering Committee members and Palliative Care Matters, visit:

To arrange interviews with Fred Horne and Karen Macmillan, contact:
Laura McNabb
Community Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator
Covenant Health Palliative Institute
(780) 735‐9638

To contact The Conference Board of Canada, call:
Juline Ranger
Director of Communications
(613) 526‐3090 ext. 431

To contact Don Newman, call:
Darryl Konynenbelt
Media Lead
(647) 203‐4340

In partnership with:

Palliative Care Matters – Steering Committee Members

Co‐chair: Karen Macmillan, Senior Operating Officer, Covenant Health
Co‐chair: Fred Horne, former Alberta Minister of Health (2011‐2014)

Sharon Baxter, Executive Director, Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, Vice‐President, Medical Professionalism, Canadian Medical Association ‐ Office of Ethics
Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice‐President, Cancer Control, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
Dr. J. David Henderson, President‐Elect, Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians
Anya Humphrey, Family/Patient Advocate
Shelly Jamieson, CEO, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
Maria Judd, Senior Director, Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement
Tammy Moore, CEO, ALS Society of Canada
John Ruetz, President & CEO, Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario
Stephen Samis, Vice‐President of Programs, Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement
Marcel Saulnier, A/Associate ADM, Strategic Policy Branch, Health Canada
Shirlee Sharkey, President & CEO, Saint Elizabeth Health Care
Anne Sutherland Boal, CEO, Canadian Nurses Association
Dr. Kathryn Todd, Vice President, Research, Innovation & Analytics, Alberta Health Services
Russell Williams, Chair, Canadian Frailty Network
Jewel Buksa, Project Manager, Palliative Care Matters