This pandemic has posed challenges for many businesses and individuals including seniors. Many seniors regretfully had to incur costs during COVID-19 due to new services and household expenses and a change in living or work circumstances. By speaking with local seniors’ advisory groups, management at long-term care homes and engaging with constituents from all regions of the riding, I’ve been able to be their strong voice in Ottawa and advocate for the things that matter to them.
Therefore, it is encouraging to announce that this New Year brings a much-needed tax reduction for our seniors. They can now earn more before paying any federal income tax, which is another important step forward to assist seniors with additional financial security.
Seniors issues have always been a personal priority.
In 2017, my motion M-106 passed in the House of Commons, which revitalized the development of Canada’s first National Seniors Strategy. This paved the way for the creation of Canada’s first ministry dedicated to seniors. It also helped to advance increases in financial support for seniors living in poverty and put a National focus on housing for the elderly.
This builds upon frameworks that position seniors as a priority in our country. When the government increases the Basic Personal Amount in 2023, 4.3 million seniors will benefit, including 465,000 whose federal income tax will be reduced to zero. Every year, single seniors will save close to $300 and couples will save nearly $600.
Seniors depend on strong public pensions and I support our government’s effort to improve them. We reversed the previous government’s increase to the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), restoring it to 65 years of age from 67. That put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of seniors.
To help low-income seniors, we’ve also increased the GIS by almost $1,000 on an annual basis. To help low-income working seniors keep more of their benefits, we also increased the GIS earnings exemption so they can earn up to $5,000 without any reduction in benefits and get a partial exemption for their next $10,000 of income.
In order to address extra expenses due to the pandemic, we made one-time payments to seniors in April through the GST Credit and July through OAS. Together, they are worth over $1,500 for a low-income couple, all tax-free.
We also worked together with provinces and territories to increase the Canada Pension Plan’s maximum yearly benefit for future retirees by about 50 per cent, meaningfully reducing the risk of not saving enough for retirement.
The fall economic statement also brought forth some positive news for seniors.
Some of the measures include a new $1-billion Safe Long-term Care Fund to help provinces and territories protect people in long-term care and support infection prevention and control,
$38.5 million in order to support personal support workers, homecare workers and essential workers involved in senior care, there is also support to improve retention, recruitment and retirement savings options for low- and modest-income workers, particularly those without existing workplace pension coverage. There has also been a push to move forward in establishing the foundational elements of national, universal pharmacare, which would greatly benefit the country’s aging population.
Changes were also made to the New Horizons for Seniors program, allowing eligible organizations and funding recipients to reallocate their investment in order to use them for COVID-19 initiatives. There was also additional New Horizons funding streamed through the United Way which helped with essential needs for seniors like groceries and home services.
Our policies are showing positive results with 25 per cent fewer seniors living in poverty than in 2015, but we have much more work to do.
We must ensure our communities are age friendly and continue to offer opportunities for seniors to thrive financially, emotionally and physically.
I will continue to work at a grassroots level to ensure investments are made to our communities, which will enrich the lives of our aging population. It is critical that the province continues to protect the long-term care (LTC) sector. As more vaccines become available, it will be paramount that the provincial government respect the integrity of the vaccination rollout plan so that staff and residents in long-term care homes in Northern Ontario are prioritized.
We have much to be optimistic for looking ahead this New Year, and I will continue to work collaboratively with all levels of governments to ensure our seniors and most vulnerable are taken into account and supported.
Marc Serré is the MP for Nickel Belt.