There is a lot going on this month, including World Alzheimers Awareness Month. However the election takes priority for me. Next week’s blog will focus on dementia issues but for today, the focus of this blog is on what the federal parties are considering regarding supporting seniors and their caregivers.
Canada has both a Dementia Strategy as well as a National Seniors Strategy that both require careful attention. Issues that need to be addressed, include and are not limited to:
- Redesigning and improving Long Term Care
- Expanding Caregiver Benefit/Tax Credit
- Increasing home accessibility funding
- Reducing isolation
- Elder Abuse prevention
- Community development for integrative and affordable housing
- Improving access to health care with more geriatricians
I have referenced NIA’s publication, dated September 10, 2021 titled “Election 2021: It’s Time for a National Seniors Strategy — Where the Major Parties Stand on Comprehensive Ageing Issues” which can be accessed on their website. Their summary is below.
Bloc Québécois Platform — “Strong Commitments for and by Quebecers!”
The Bloc Québécois released a 30-page party platform. While there are no specific sections on older adults, the platform outlines several policy initiatives that target this group. This includes a pledge to raise the standard of living for seniors and increasing Old Age Security (OAS) pension payments. The Bloc also promises to abolish any discriminatory provisions in the Federal Pensions Act, specifically proposing to repeal provisions that prevent seniors from collecting a deceased spouse’s pension. It also notes that increasing the monthly pension for all seniors aged 65 and over remains essential. Lastly, as part of its platform to address labour shortages, the Bloc will propose measures to encourage older Canadians to continue working, enabling low-income seniors to earn more without added claw backs to government pension benefits.
Conservative Party of Canada Platform — “Canada’s Recovery Plan”
The Conservative party platform pledges $3 billion for building long-term care infrastructure, including renovations to existing homes. The platform also aims to increase the number of personal support workers by providing immigration priority for individuals who can work in long-term care and home care, and attract more personal support workers to Canada through immigration and settlement programs.
The Conservatives propose supporting seniors to stay in their own homes or to live with their families by increasing the Home Accessibility Tax Credit limit from a maximum of $10,000 per dwelling to $10,000 per qualifying person within a dwelling. Also, seniors and their caregivers would be able to claim the Medical Expense Tax Credit for home care, currently available only to those who live in group care homes. Additionally, the Conservatives have committed to introducing the Canada Seniors Care Benefits program, which would pay $200 per household to anyone living with and taking care of a parent aged 70 years and older.
Finally, the Conservatives also promise to implement measures to protect pensions. This would be done by preventing executives from paying themselves bonuses while managing a company through a restructuring if the pension is not fully funded, no longer forcing underfunded pension to be paid in annuities, and by requiring companies to report the funding status of their pensions clearly.
Green Party of Canada Platform — “Be Daring.”
The Green party is pledging to reform long-term care in Canada by bringing it under the Canada Health Act to ensure universal access to “quality, affordable care.” The party is also proposing improvements to the quality of care in long-term care homes by creating enforceable National Standards for LTC, setting a national standard of four hours of regulated care per day for each resident, and providing all needed vaccinations (beyond COVID-19) to residents, staff and caregivers. The platform pledges to increase and stabilize staffing in LTC by improving training, pay, benefits and paid sick leave for workers.
The Green Party also commits to increasing investment in home and community care including by providing a dedicated Seniors’ Care Transfer, separate from the federal health transfers, for improvements to home, community and LTC care. In addition, the Green Party says it will end for-profit LTC facilities, increase the proportion of LTC investment in home and community-based care from 13% to 35%, make the Caregiver Tax Credit a refundable tax credit, and change the Home Renovation Tax Credit from $10,000 per household to $10,000 per person.
The Green Party also pledges to implement measures to protect pensions for seniors. These include amending insolvency legislation and pension benefit legislation for federally-regulated pensions. The party also promises to introduce a refundable tax credit that is equal to the amount of pension loss an individual has incurred, for those whose pension plans fail.
Finally, the Green Party platform includes proposals to develop and fund national dementia and elder abuse strategies.
Liberal Party of Canada Platform — “Forward. For Everyone.”
The Liberal party is pledging an investment of $9 billion over five years to “support safer conditions for seniors and improved wages and working conditions for personal support workers”. It has committed to improving the quality and availability of LTC beds, implementing strict infection prevention and control measures, and developing a Safe Long-Term Care Act. The Liberals are also promising to continue working with the provinces and territories to raise wages for personal support workers to at least $25 per hour and by training up to 50,000 new personal support workers.
The Liberal party has also committed to supporting seniors to age in their own homes. The party proposes to double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit from $10,000 to $20,000 to help make homes more accessible. The Liberals also pledge to create “an expert panel to provide recommendations for establishing the Aging at Home Benefit”.
Finally, the Liberal party’s platform also includes several proposals to improve retirement security. The party has committed to increasing the OAS by 10% next year for Canadians aged 75 and over, and the GIS by $500 for single seniors and $750 for couples, starting at age 65. The party also pledges to increase the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan survivor’s benefit by 25%.
New Democratic Party (NDP) Platform — “Ready for Better: New Democrats’ Commitments to You”
The NDP platform commits to ensuring better access to quality home care and long-term care. This includes a promise to “end private, for-profit long-term care and bring long-term care homes under the public umbrella.” The NDP are also promising to develop national care standards for home care and long-term care, which would be regulated by the same principles as the Canada Health Act. This process would include setting minimum national care standards for long-term care residents, determining a set of core home care services that will be available and covered by provincial insurance plans, and ensuring safe working environments for personal support and health care workers.
The party is also committing to improve retirement security for Canadians by establishing a Pension Advisory Commission to develop a long-term plan to enhance Old Age Security (OAS), boost the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and strengthen the Canada Pension Plan. The NDP is also proposing to put in place a one-year delay to help seniors at risk of having their GIS benefits suspended for being unable to provide the required income statement, and pledge to make automatic enrollment in the OAS and GIS retroactive for Canadians who had not enrolled at the point of eligibility. The NDP proposes to protect pensions in the context of bankruptcy, promising to “make sure that pensioners are at the front of the line when a company goes bankrupt.”
The NDP platform includes a proposal to lead a National Seniors Strategy, “to make seniors’ healthcare a priority, reduce isolation and address seniors’ poverty.” The proposed Seniors Strategy will include a funded national dementia strategy and an elder abuse prevention program.
Ask questions and question their answers….
 Accessed September 12, 2021