Seniors and those who care about them will welcome the measures announced today in the federal budget. More needs to be done.

OTTAWA – The return of the OAS eligibility age to 65 has already been announced. This will be welcome news to those who were facing having to wait two extra years for their OAS benefit after struggling in their career.

An estimated 600,000 seniors live under the poverty line today and this is not expected to change unless more is done to provide better income supports and to reduce their critical expenses like home care and drug costs.

Today’s federal budget contains welcome measures to:

Increase the guaranteed income supplement [GIS] for single seniors beginning July 2016. Single seniors, especially women, face far greater rates of poverty compared to their counterparts in couples. That will benefit 900,000 single seniors across Canada. While absolutely welcome, it is a maximum of just $2.60 more per day. Much more needs to be done to prevent poverty among seniors.

Introduce a Seniors Index for OAS and GIS to help them keep pace with their cost of living. However, while a welcome change, the index should actually help seniors keep pace with the standard of living and should be tied to wage rate increases.

Also welcome is the $200 million over 2 years to fund seniors affordable housing – without requiring a cost match from the provinces – a major barrier in the past. Secure housing is a major social determinant of health.

The funding of the Canadian foundation for Healthcare Improvement and for the Canadian Institutes of Health Information is a welcome investment provided that the Naylor report’s call for a patient focused approach to innovation is the centrepiece.

Unfortunately, the budget did not address several important promises:

Remove the requirement for a terminal diagnosis to qualify for the EI compassionate leave benefit and increase flexibility in how the benefit may be used. The requirement for a terminal diagnosis has in the past stopped people from applying for the compassionate leave benefit. In addition the flexibility in using the benefit better reflects how chronic illnesses play out.

Invest $3 billion in home care and palliative care over X years. There is an immediate need for sustained funding and national standards on home care. The patchwork of palliative care must be addressed immediately and this new funding will be a major first step.

The promise to join the Pan Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance [PCPA] will incrementally reduce the costs of many drugs. However a comprehensive National Pharmacare system is necessary in order to ensure that every Canadian is able to access needed medications regardless of income and postal code.

The recent announcement to work with the provinces to find a consensus to increase the CPP is somewhat encouraging. However, indications from some of the provinces cause concern that the consensus will not be achieved in the near future. It may be necessary for the federal government to consider options such as the introduction of a national pension framework independent of the CPP process that provides a robust pension system and that gives each province greater flexibility on plan design (e.g., coverage and benefit levels) and timing of introduction
(e.g., reflecting regional conditions).

Mandate an expert panel to consider a guaranteed annual income. Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos welcomed the option of a guaranteed annual income as part of a anti-poverty strategy
Already the Ontario government is prepared to study the idea.
And the recommendation to explore the idea was contained in the Finance Committee’s pre-budget report

National Pensioners Federation is a national, non partisan, non sectarian organization of 350 seniors chapters, clubs, groups, organizations and individual supporters across Canada with a collective membership of 1,000,000 seniors and retirees devoted entirely to the welfare and best interests of ageing Canadians.

For more information, please contact:
Herb John
President, National Pensioners Federation
(519) 350-3221
Susan Eng
Counsel, National Pensioners Federation
(647) 988-3595