The Federal Budget was a disappointment to anyone concerned about the interests of older Canadians. Last year, Prime Minister Trudeau said that when thinking about economic policy prior to the election, his real concern was families. The most recent budget signals he has forgotten that assertion. Canadian families are hurt by higher prices for food, gasoline and rental housing. And the April 2022 Budget had little in it to combat inflation or assist older Canadians who have been hurt by the double whammy of Covid and Inflation.
“The budget has very little in it for seniors,” lamented Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer at CARP, “We’re really disappointed that there’s no protection for inflation that’s being felt strongly by older Canadians, no new plans to protect pensions, and nothing really new for healthcare other than a dental plan that might help seniors in the future.”
This year, children twelve and under in families with annual incomes under $90,000 will receive free dental care. There is a promise for assistance for seniors in 2023. Why should older Canadians have to wait? It signals the federal government’s priority, and it is not support for seniors.
The budget promises extraordinarily little else in new spending to re-invigorate Canada’s struggling health system. Health transfers to the provinces will increase this year but not nearly to the degree provincial governments have requested and have need of because of Covid.
The budget also does not appear to respond to the repeated pleas from health workers for a plan to address serious staffing shortages as burned-out employees reduce their hours and leave the workforce in droves, a reality that impacts all Canadians and certainly those who are older and more vulnerable to health concerns.
Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Katherine Smart says more tangible investments for the health workforce and the health system are urgently required, since she says, “we are still in this pandemic.”
Additional Budget Comments and Notes
- Multi-generational home renovation tax credit of up to $7500 to create space for a senior family member or someone who is disabled. While this recognizes the inflated cost of living and its impact on many older Canadians with fixed incomes, it does require that families spend $50,000 to claim the 15 per cent of renovation and construction costs. We expect few older Canadians will be in a position to spend that much so tax credit would in fact be much less if at all.
- Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment (OBSI) After years of lobbying, CARP is delighted to see the government take action on ensuring targeted legislative measures to strengthen the external complaints handling system and put into place a single, non-profit, external complaints body (OBSI) to address consumer complaints involving banks.
- Rising inflation rates mean higher monthly payments for older Canadians who have mortgages or loans to pay off. Although the bank of Canada agrees, they claim this “debt vulnerability” may be offset by the fact that many older Canadians have saved up money during the pandemic. Older Canadians tell CARP their savings should not be used to mitigate the impacts of inflation. On a positive side note, higher rates means that older Canadians who avoid the stock market and put their money in savings accounts or invest in fixed-income investments like money markets, bonds or GICs, should begin to see higher returns.
When the federal government promises large sums of money over a period of time this can sound like a solid commitment. Unfortunately, however, the reality can be quite the opposite. When funds are broken down (by year, district or project) they can sometimes be woefully inadequate, and funds stretching over years can mean that the current government is not held accountable for promised actions.
- Creation of an expert panel to study the idea of an Ageing at Home Benefit – Promises of studies that may result in changes 5 years from now fall on deaf ears. Older Canadians know the benefits of aging in place and want action NOW.
- The promised $20 million over five years for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study dementia and brain health, improve treatment and outcomes for people living with dementia, and address caregivers’ mental health sounds positive, but is only 4 million per year and means results will not be acted on for over 5 years when there will be a new government in place. The same can be said of the promise of thirty million over three years for the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation to accelerate innovative solutions in brain health and ageing.
- $20 million over two years to expand the New Horizons for Seniors Program to support more community projects for older Canadians sounds good but $10 million each year will not respond to the need. At the usual current level of granting, this will mean only eight hundred – one thousand grants for the entire country each year.
- There are still too many unanswered questions about the promise of continued efforts to introduce a universal national pharmacare program, with an aim to pass a Canada Pharmacare bill by the end of 2023.
- There was a previously announced $4 billion for Long Term Institutional Care from previous commitments but to-date this is just for studies and limited support to the Provinces.
- There was also a previously announced $1 billion to the Universal Broadband Fund internet in rural and remote communities.
Bill VanGorder, national CARP Chief Operating Officer, reported that in his conversations with Minister of Seniors Kamal Khera immediately after the budet’s release, he asked her about CARP’s request for the elimination of taxes on Home Care costs. Her answer was that the government had many demands and the supports to Home Care, other than the renovation tax credit, would have to come in the future. CARP’s response was that older Canadians want action now, not promises for the future. If you are 80 years old, a promise of action 5 years from now falls on deaf ears.