441-00429 (Social affairs and equality)
Petition to the House of Commons
We, the undersigned, residents of the province of Manitoba, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:
- Canada's seniors should be a priority for all of us;
- There are programs that support Canada's seniors like OAS and the GIS along with other public and private financial support programs that ensure seniors have financial means;
- Governments and senior support groups often encourage and provide support programs like Canada's New Horizons Program which provides grants or Age and Opportunity groups that provide services;
- Governments of all levels need to work together on issues like long term care and mental health for our seniors; and
- It is important that leaders in our communities recognize the value of supporting our seniors who continue to contribute to who we are as a society no matter what their personal disposition might be.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon Canada's Members of Parliament to encourage, promote and advocate for the needs of our seniors.
Government response tabled
Response by the Minister of Seniors
Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): DARREN FISHER
The Government of Canada values the contribution that seniors have made and continue to make to our country, our communities, our workplaces and our families. The government is delivering on a number of commitments to provide support to Canadian seniors, to ensure their financial security, social inclusion, well-being and quality of life.
While the percentage of seniors living in poverty decreased from 7.0% in 2015 to 5.4% in 2019, we know that some seniors still struggle to make ends meet. This is why our Government has taken further actions to reduce poverty. In 2018, the Government introduced Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Strategy offers a bold vision for Canada without poverty. It also sets concrete targets to reduce poverty amongst all Canadians, including seniors: by 20% by 2020; and by 50% by 2030; relative to 2015 levels. The Government’s poverty reduction efforts are already showing positive effects. According to the Canadian Income Survey, the poverty rate decreased by 30% from 2015 to 2019. This means that Canada has exceeded its interim target to reduce poverty by 20 percent by 2020. Between 2015 and 2019, over 1.3 million Canadians were lifted out of poverty, including 45,000 seniors.
The Government supports seniors through a strong and stable retirement income system consisting of three pillars that Canadians can count on to be there today and into the future.
The first pillar is the residence-based, monthly Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the income-tested Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for low-income seniors. Benefits under the OAS program include the OAS pension, which is paid to all persons aged 65 or over who meet the residence requirements, the GIS for low-income seniors, and the Allowances for low-income Canadians aged 60 to 64 who are the spouses or common-law partners of GIS recipients, or who are widows or widowers.
The second pillar is the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a social insurance program that is funded by the contributions of employees, employers and self-employed persons, and by the revenue earned on CPP investments. It covers virtually all employed and self-employed persons in Canada, excluding Quebec, which operates its own comprehensive plan, the Québec Pension Plan. The intent of the CPP is to provide contributors and their families with minimum basic income replacement upon the retirement, disability or death of a wage earner. As an income replacement program, the amount of CPP benefits are generally based on each earner’s contributions to the CPP over their lifetime. While primarily a retirement plan, the CPP also provides supplementary disability and survivor benefits, which reflect the social insurance nature of the Plan and are not a direct return on contributions.
The OAS and CPP work together to provide a stable base upon which individuals can add income from private third pillar measures, such as employer-sponsored pension plans, registered retirement savings plans, tax-free savings accounts and other personal savings and investments, to address their particular financial circumstances.
To ensure that they retain their value over time, OAS benefits are reviewed four times per year (in January, April, July and October) and CPP benefits are reviewed annually (in January) in accordance with changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures the price of a typical “basket” of goods and services, such as food, shelter, gas and clothing, commonly purchased by Canadian households. The quarterly indexation provides benefit increases to recipients when prices go up. In addition, the Old Age Security Act and the Canada Pension Plan each contain a guarantee ensuring that benefits can never go down, even in the event of a decline in the CPI.
The Government of Canada remains committed to improving the income security of seniors and continues to seek ways to strengthen the OAS program, as demonstrated by a broad range of measures taken since 2015:
- Budget 2016 restored the age of eligibility for the OAS pension and the GIS to 65, putting thousands of dollars back in the pockets of future Canadian seniors.
- In July 2016, the GIS was increased by up to $947 per year for the lowest-income single seniors, benefiting close to 900,000 vulnerable seniors across Canada.
- In December 2017, the Government launched automatic enrolment to the GIS. Seniors who are automatically enrolled for the OAS pension are now automatically enrolled for the GIS without ever having to complete an application.
- In Budget 2019, the Government enhanced the GIS earnings exemption so that low-income seniors who work are able to keep more of what they earn. As of July 2020, the enhanced exemption applies to both employment and self-employment income, and provides a full exemption on up to $5,000 of annual earnings, as well as a 50% exemption on the next $10,000 of earnings. This means that low-income seniors who work can keep more of their benefits.
The Government has also introduced several measures to protect seniors’ financial security during the COVID-19 pandemic. These included, in 2020, a one-time tax-free payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the OAS pension, with an additional tax-free payment of $200 for seniors eligible for the GIS. This measure provided a total of $500 to low-income seniors who received both the OAS pension and the GIS. Allowance recipients also received $500.
More recently, in Budget 2021, the Government committed to moving forward with investments that give Canadian seniors a better quality of life, including stronger financial security. In July 2022, the Government will increase the OAS pension by 10 percent for seniors aged 75 or over. In order to help address the immediate needs of this group of seniors, the Government provided a one-time payment of $500 in August 2021 to OAS pensioners who will be aged 75 or over as of June 30, 2022.Budget 2021 committed $90 million from 2021-22 to 2023-24 to support seniors in their homes through the Age Well at Home initiative. The timeframe for this initiative was recently extended to the end of fiscal year 2024-25.
Age Well at Home will provide funding to local seniors-serving organizations to provide practical supports, such as meals, light housekeeping, yard work and transportation, to help low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors stay at home longer. This initiative will also support regional and national projects that help expand services that have already demonstrated results in helping seniors stay in their homes. For example, knowledge hubs can help seniors access the local services available to them or provide information, resources and training to seniors-serving organizations delivering practical supports to seniors.
The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) supports the Government of Canada’s overarching social goals to enhance the quality of life, and promote the full participation of individuals, including seniors, in all aspects of Canadian society. The Program helps to ensure that seniors can benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities. The NHSP promotes volunteerism among seniors and other generations; engages seniors in the community through mentoring of others; expands awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse; supports social participation and inclusion of seniors; and provides capital assistance for new and existing community projects and/or programs for seniors.
The NHSP reinforces that seniors are valuable assets to communities. By empowering seniors and encouraging them to share their knowledge, skills and experience with others in the community, the NHSP enhances seniors’ social well-being and community vitality. Seniors today contribute to their community, organizations and broader society by volunteering, participating in, and leading community activities. Since 2004, the NHSP has funded more than 30,500 projects with a total investment of more than $660 million.
Addressing the issues faced by seniors is not only about the action of governments. Meaningful contributions are needed from a broad coalition of stakeholders. The Government receives valuable advice from a number of partners and stakeholders to inform its work. For example, the National Seniors Council, established in 2007, provides advice to the federal government, through the Minister of Seniors and Minister of Health, on matters related to the well-being, quality of life and health of seniors. Additionally, through the FPT Seniors Forum, federal, provincial and territorial ministers and officials discuss issues of importance to seniors, share information on seniors’ wellbeing, and undertake initiatives to advance issues of common concern.
The Government looks forward to continuing to work with the National Seniors Council, provinces, territories and other key stakeholders to support Canada’s seniors of today and tomorrow.
Response by the Minister of Health
Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Adam van Koeverden
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting Canadians, including seniors, through the development of policies, programs, and initiatives that promote the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of older adults, and through addressing issues in long-term care.
The Government of Canada supports and promotes various international initiatives related to aging and health, including the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) Age-Friendly Communities Model. An age-friendly community is one that is designed to help seniors live safely, enjoy good health and stay involved. In an age-friendly community, structures and services are adapted to the needs of older people. These efforts continue to grow around the world and in Canada, where we now have over 1,400 communities across the country working to become more age-friendly. The Prime Minister has tasked the Minister of Health, in the context of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, with working to promote seniors’ physical and mental health to enable them to live longer at home. This includes supporting the Minister of Seniors in their work to establish an expert panel to provide recommendations for establishing an Aging at Home Benefit.
Canadians ultimately want to age at home or in their community, close to family and loved ones. That is why the Federal Government is providing $6 billion over ten years – starting in 2017 – for provinces and territories to improve access to home and community care services, including palliative care. This investment is helping more Canadians receive the care and services they need so that they may remain at home longer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also tragically exposed long-standing issues affecting long-term care facilities across the country. While the provision of long-term care falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, the Federal Government is working collaboratively with provinces and territories to improve the quality and availability of long-term care, and to support training and better wages for personal support workers. The Minister of Health’s most recent mandate letter reiterates the Government’s commitment to ensuring seniors get the care they deserve. This commitment builds on past efforts to support long-term care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address significant challenges revealed during COVID-19, in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Federal Government announced the creation of a new Safe Long-Term Care Fund. This fund is transferring $1 billion to the provinces and territories to protect people living and working in long-term care. Provinces and territories are able to use this money to improve infection prevention and control in facilities, including to assess infection prevention and control readiness, improve infrastructure such as ventilation, and address workforce gaps, including hiring more staff or raising wages.
In addition, Budget 2021 announced a further $3 billion investment, starting in 2022-23, to support provinces and territories in their efforts to ensure standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made. This funding will help support workforce stability, including through wage top-ups and improvements to workplace conditions (e.g. staff to patient ratios, hours of work) and strengthened enforcement (e.g., enhanced inspection and enforcement capacity, quality and safety improvements to meet standards), including through accreditation and regular inspections. The Federal Government will work collaboratively with provinces and territories to flow this funding as part of our collective efforts to make sure that seniors and others in care settings live in safe and dignified conditions. The Federal Government also welcomed the news that the Health Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) are conducting an independent process to develop new national standards for long-term care. Both organisations have conducted extensive public consultations, completed a 60-day public review of their draft long-term care standards, and expect to release the final standards by December 2022. This is an important step to improving care for seniors that will set the bar higher for safe and respectful care in these facilities.
The Federal Government has also responded to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities in a number of other ways:
- $740M to provinces and territories for vulnerable populations, including those in long-term care, as part of the Safe Restart Agreement in 2020;
- Workforce supports from the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Red Cross in long-term care facilities;
- Public Health Agency of Canada Guidance on infection prevention and control and patient care in long-term care / home care during the pandemic;
- Enhanced supply and coordination of personal protective equipment;
- Procurement and coordination support for rapid testing and vaccines;
- Funding for Healthcare Excellence Canada’s LTC+ program, to share best practices across long-term care facilities and seniors’ residences; and,
- Programs coordinated by Employment and Social Development Canada for training and work placements for personal support worker interns.
Seniors deserve to be safe, respected, and live in dignity. The Federal Government continues to work in collaboration with provinces and territories to ensure seniors get the care they deserve, foster aging at home, and increase the resilience of long-term care facilities in order to prevent and mitigate challenges, including COVID-19.
Our Government also has an important role to play in supporting evidence-based best practices to promote healthy aging. In 2018, the Government of Canada invested $75 million for the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project in New Brunswick. This project is examining how governments can better support seniors in their homes, communities and care facilities. The projects supported by this initiative are addressing a wide range of issues related to the health of older people.
Dementia is also having a significant and growing impact in Canada, with more than 450,000 Canadians aged 65 and older with a diagnosis (2017-18). This number is expected to rise as Canada’s aging population increases. In 2019, Canada released its first national dementia strategy, A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire. The Government of Canada is supporting the strategy’s implementation through investments in research, awareness raising, guidance, surveillance, and community-based projects. Furthermore, Budget 2022 proposes to provide $30 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to the Public Health Agency of Canada, for the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation to help accelerate innovations in brain health and aging. Budget 2022 also proposes to provide $20 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to ramp up efforts to learn more about dementia and brain health, to improve treatment and outcomes for persons living with dementia, and to evaluate and address mental health consequences for caregivers and different models of care.
The commitment to support the mental health of Canadians, including seniors, is reflected in a number of ongoing investments. Through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, the Government is investing $5 billion over ten years (2017-2027) to support increased access to mental health and substance use services. The Government is also continuing to work with partners and stakeholders to develop National Standards for Mental Health and Substance Use Services. Once developed and voluntarily implemented, standards will help to support an evidence-based framework for service delivery that the public, service providers, and policy makers can rely on.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected older adults who continue to experience a range of negative impacts as a result of the pandemic and has necessitated an increased need for mental health supports. To support older Canadians, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has released guidance, information, and awareness resources on topics important to seniors’ health. In addition, through Budget 2021, the Government of Canada is providing $100 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to support projects that promote mental health and prevent mental illness in populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including older adults.
Seniors are also able to access the Wellness Together Canada (WTC) portal, launched by the Government in response to the increased need for mental health services resulting from the pandemic. Through the WTC portal, individuals across Canada can access free, 24/7, credible information and supports in both official languages to help address mental health and substance use issues. The portal offers services across the continuum of care, from self-guided resources to live coaching, peer support and counselling (including by telephone), allowing users to seamlessly “step” up or down to a different intensity of support appropriate for their needs. To help clients (including seniors) navigate the portal, a dedicated phone line is available for speaking with Program Navigators who can assist with finding the appropriate resources. Budget 2022 aims to provide $140M over two years, starting in 2022-23, in support of the WTC portal, so that it can continue to provide Canadians with tools and services to support their mental health and well-being.
The Government recognizes that, as Canada heads into post-pandemic recovery, additional mental health supports will be needed. As a result, the first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions will seek to make mental health a full and equal part of the healthcare system, by delivering on a number of commitments, including engaging with provinces and territories to inform the development of a new Canada Mental Health Transfer.
The Government of Canada will continue to engage with key partners and stakeholders to build evidence, raise awareness, and develop resources on key seniors’ health issues. Budget 2022 also proposes the creation of an expert panel that will report to the Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health to study the idea of an Aging At Home Benefit. All of these commitments and investments in mental health, healthy aging, dementia, and long-term care ensure a better future for Canadians.
- Presented to the House of Commons
May 10, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00429)
- Government response tabled
- June 22, 2022
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.
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