Mar 21, 2013

By Michael Kramer

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CARP – A New Vision Of Aging – says its members will be disappointed that the federal budget contained little to address their priority concerns – retirement security, seniors’ poverty and equitable access to healthcare, affordable drugs and home care. Some  modest measures in the budget are still welcome. Any other improvements would have had some immediate impact but would mostly set the stage for the kind of future Canadians can expect in retirement.

CARP staff was in the Budget Lockup in Ottawa  to see first hand what the government proposed to address CARP’S  priority concerns.

There is little of note to report to CARP members but there are some modest but important measures. These consist of:

1.The GST/HST exemption for publicly funded home care services will now extend to personal care services. While this will make it easier for the provinces to afford to provide more of  those  services, it will depend on the provinces to choose to offer such services. This a priority need for older Canadians and their family caregivers – so every bit helps. More direct income support for the family caregivers would have been better. Nonetheless, $5 million in foregone GST/HST revenues is budgeted for each of 2013-14 and 2014-15.
2.Funding for training in palliative care to front line health care providers to the extent of $3 million over three years. Palliative care as part of the whole care continuum is a critical need and more training is an important first step. More  resources need to be allocated to the sector immediately so that those getting the training will have the jobs and programs to actually provide more palliative care to Canadians.
3.Protection against Financial Fraud, especially for seniors is a welcome measure although it consists of plans for consultations, raising awareness and improving financial literacy for seniors. While attention to this issue is commendable, the government failed to bolster the one existing agency, OBSI, which had the investor protection mandate. No other investor protection agency exists that would champion investor rights including being able to get restitution for losses due to predatory practices or inappropriate advice. The government’s proposed Common Securities Regulator held the promise of creating such an investor protection agency and remains a needed measure.
4.Older workers can also benefit from the Canada Job Grant providing matching funds for needed training. Together with the job match programs under the Third Quarter initiative from the 2012 budget, older workers will have a better chance at getting and keeping needed jobs. 

Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP says: “These modest measures certainly acknowledge some of the important concerns that CARP members have identified – the need for more and better home care and palliative care. While primarily a provincial responsibility, federal leadership and funding is needed and the modest measures are welcome but insufficient on their own to make a material difference in how people today can access these services. Financial literacy measures are certainly welcome and we look forward to working with the government to develop that measure. It will also be an opportunity to press for progress on the investor protection arm of the Common Securities regulator.” 

CARP has called for broad policy shifts that would improve the quality of life for all Canadians as we age. Specifically,

1. Universal Pension Plan to help Canadians save for their own retirement
2. Income support levels that ensure that no senior lives in poverty, reverse OAS decision
3. Stable funding and national standards for home care, caregiver support and end of life care
4. Equitable access to affordable drugs regardless of postal code

Susan Eng:  “The Federal Budget tells us what kind of country we will be living in and sets the fiscal [taxing and spending] priorities that determine whether people can adequately provide for themselves, get the help they need when they are ill and generally expect to live in dignity through their retirement. The social safety net has been fraying through neglect or deliberate government action. The question is what’s next, in which direction are we heading?”

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