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FEDERAL ELECTION

Surrey votes, Election 2019: What the parties are promising for seniors

Third in a three-part series on political promises and platforms, heading into the Oct. 21 federal election

A wise old owl might well take the following election campaign promises with a shaker of salt, but here is what Canada’s political parties are promising to do for seniors if they’re handed the nation’s reins after the Oct. 21 federal election.

According to the City of Surrey, an estimated 72,990 seniors live in this city, making for roughly 14 per cent of the city’s population.

According to the federal government, there will be more than 9.5 million seniors by 2030, making up 23 per of Canadians. But in 2019, Statistics Canada says, there are presently 6,592,611 seniors aged 65 and older living in Canada, and that’s a lot of voting clout.

The Canadian Association for Long Term Care has lamented that support for long-term care is, for the most part, “noticeably absent” in the parties’ platforms.

Jodi Hall, chairwoman of CALTC, says seniors and their families across Canada are telling her that the political parties are “missing the mark.”

“We know Canadians care about seniors, and we know overwhelmingly seniors get out to vote,” Hall said. “We have to hope that before election day that if the parties expect to form government, they must do a better job when it comes to supporting seniors.”

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This is what the parties are promising to do for seniors if they form government.

CONSERVATIVE: The Conservatives claim the Liberals are planning to raise taxes on seniors and say that under Justin Trudeau they have already hiked CPP premiums, and cancelled tax relief for seniors who use public transportation. The Tories claim they will put more than $700 back in seniors’ pockets by reducing income tax on pensions, removing GST from home heating and by cancelling the carbon tax.

Shinder Purewal, Conservative MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said scrapping the carbon tax would mean commodities do not skyrocket, “because five per cent is just a beginning by Trudeau.” He said doing away with the GST on home heating, and providing subsidies for people to save energy on home renovations will also help seniors.

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Shinder Purewal

“Trudeau had no minister for seniors in the first three years of his mandate,” Purewal said. “We will provide that leadership from day one of the Conservative government, to seniors.”

The Conservatives claim that if they are elected into government seniors will receive $300 in tax relief on top of the Universal Tax Cut they’re promising for everyone.

That would involve increasing the Age Tax Credit up to $150 for people over 65 and $300 per year for couples 65 and older. The Tories note that in 2006 and 2009 the Conservative governments of the day increased the Age Tax Credit by $1,000. This is for seniors making less than $87,750.

LIBERAL: The Liberals, however, seek to remind older voters that under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, previous to this last Liberal one under Justin Trudeau, the Tories hiked the age of retirement to 67 from 65, and it was the Liberals who put it back.

The Liberals also claim to have lifted 50,000 seniors out of poverty and promise to lift another 20,000 more out, if elected, by increasing Old Age Security for seniors by 10 per cent when they hit age 75 and continuing to raise it along with inflation. They also say they’ll increase by 25 per cent the Canada Pension Plan survivor’s benefit.

The Liberals’ platform, under the heading More Generous Support for Seniors, says as many as 283,000 Canadian senior citizens live in poverty.

“We will also move forward with more help for seniors who have lost their partners. Most often, the surviving partners are women,” the Liberal campaign literature reads. “We will work with the provinces and territories to give even more support to survivors, by increasing the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan survivor’s benefit by 25 per cent. This increase, worth up to $2,080 in additional benefits every year, will give more than 1.2 million seniors more money and greater peace of mind at a time when then need it most.”

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Ken Hardie

Moreover, the Liberals say that if re-elected into government they will establish new Criminal Code penalties relating to elder abuse, but are short on specifics.

Ken Hardie, Liberal MP incumbent for Fleetwood-Port Kells, noted the Stephen Harper Conservative government, prior to the Liberals forming government in 2015, moved the eligibility for the old age security and guaranteed income supplement to age 67 from 65, “and in one fell swoop they consigned 100,000 seniors to poverty, across the country.”

The Liberals reversed that back to 65, and increased the guaranteed income supplement, which goes to the poorest of seniors, by close to $1,000 a year.

“We will start rolling out a national pharmacare program – major help for seniors,” he said.

NDP: The New Democrats say that a government formed by them would lead a National Seniors Strategy, in conjunction with the territorial, provincial and Indigenous governments, “to make seniors health care a priority, reduce isolation, and tackle seniors’ poverty.” That’s from page 65 of the party’s 109-page commitments book.

“This will include a funded national dementia strategy, and an elder abuse prevention plan developed to put an end to abuse and neglect in our communities,” the NDP document promises.

“Our national pharmacare for all plan will provide prescription medicine to all seniors, saving seniors hundreds of dollars every year and ensuring that no one needs to choose between medicine and other essentials.”

The NDP, as does the Green Party, says it will restore door-to-door mail delivery. Also among NDP promises is to move pensioners to the top of the heap of creditors when companies are bankrupted, and to make refundable the Canada Caregiver Tax Credit.

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Sarjit Saran

Sarjit Saran, NDP MP candidate for Surrey Centre, says Canada needs to make sure it is taking care of its elders and seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

“I’ve spoken to pharmacists who’ve told me about all the medication currently on their shelves because the people who need it simply can’t afford it,” he says. “It shouldn’t be this way. We’re also offering free dental care for those making under $70,000. Something I’ve heard from people as I’ve door-knocked is a desire to return to door-to-door service, which an NDP government would re-implement. Our party has a National Seniors Strategy to help fund a National Dementia Strategy, in addition to funding an elder abuse prevention strategy.”

GREEN: According to the Green Party’s platform, if elected to government that party will be “increasing over time the target income replacement rate from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of income received during working years,” will create more long-term care beds, and will protect private pensions by amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act “to establish the preeminence of pensioners and the pension plan in the creditor hierarchy during company insolvency proceedings.”

Leader Elizabeth May says it’s “unconscionable that so many seniors are living below the poverty line, many having to make heartbreaking choices between food, medicine or rent.”

She says a Green government would bring in a “guaranteed live-able income” and universal pharmacare. “Better public transportation, home retrofits and affordable housing are priorities. These initiatives will help to enhance the quality of life for Canadian seniors.”

The Greens say they want, in collaboration with the provincial and territorial governments, and health professionals, to develop and fund a national dementia strategy that would “support research, improve quality of life for patients and caregivers, and educate the public to increase awareness and reduce stigma.

Green campaign literature notes that within 25 years the number of Canadians living with dementia could reach 1.3 million, “imposing the highest economic, social, and health costs of all diseases.”

A Green government would also amend Medical Assistance in Dying legislation to “ensure that everyone has the choice of dying with dignity. This includes allowing advance directives and guaranteeing the right to draw up a ‘living will’ that gives individuals the power to limit or refuse medical intervention and treatment.”

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John Werring

John Werring, Green Party MP candidate for Surrey Centre, told the Now-Leader that his party’s plan is better for seniors than that of rival parties

“For seniors, in particular, when we get into the day and age of where we have to capture our pension, the current pension return on your income is about 25 per cent of what your income was before you retire. We’re going to lift that up to 50 per cent,” Werring said.

“The other thing we’re going to do, which is critical, not only for seniors but for people in the poverty spectrum across the nation, is bring in a guaranteed live-able income, And this will be regionally based – different parts of the country require different standards of living and the affordability is different in different areas, but the one thing we want to do is ensure that everybody has a guaranteed livable income.”

Moreover, he said, a Green government would amend legislation to make sure pensions are protected, “and first and foremost become a number-one liability on bankruptcy.”

“The other thing we want to do is bring in a national pharmacare program,” Werring noted. “Many of the seniors, as you get older, are seeing a doctor more and more, and you’re getting more and more drugs, and they’re very expensive. It’s a significant portion of the income that people pay, so the national pharmacare program would alleviate that. The idea is to put more money back in the pockets of seniors, and the poor.”

PPC: Where seniors are concerned, the People’s Party of Canada has not yet made any specific promises.

Mike Poulin,the PPC MP candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said his party is concerned with letting people keep more cash rather than requiring them to fund all kinds of government spending programs.That, he said, takes money “out of seniors. And so, we would approach that from an economic point of view.”

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Mike Poulin

Meantime, if you live in a long-term care facility, you should be able to vote at a mobile polling station there and if required, according to elections.ca, Elections Canada will take the ballot box from room to room.

A mobile poll is staffed by a deputy returning officer and a poll clerk who on election day travel to institutions where seniors or people with disabilities reside, to collect their votes.

Election day is Oct. 21. To vote, you must prove your identity with a piece of ID with your name on it, such as a health card, social insurance (SIN) card, birth certificate or Veterans Affairs Canada Health Identification Card.

If you live in a long-term care facility, you can show the mobile pollsters photocopies of these documents to prove your identity and address, or a Letter of Confirmation of Residence from your home’s administrator, whom you should also contact to make certain a mobile polling team will be coming to your place.

For more information, contact Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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