441-01521 (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 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.
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. As a result of the first five years of this investment, provinces and territories have implemented new initiatives to improve access, better coordinate and integrate care, and support caregivers to help more Canadians receive the care and services they need so that they may remain at home longer. Details of the bilateral agreements, including how the funding is being spent, can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/corporate/transparency/health-agreements/shared-health-priorities.html.
The Government of Canada also 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.
The Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health have asked the National Seniors Council to serve as an expert panel to examine measures, including a potential aging at home benefit, to further support Canadians who wish to age within the comfort of their own homes. Just recently, the National Seniors Council held an online consultation inviting Canadians and stakeholders to share their lived experiences and views on ways to support Canadians in aging at home. Over 12,000 respondents provided invaluable input that will inform the Government’s work on this issue. A report containing recommendations for federal consideration on potential ways to enhance current measures or introduce new ones, including a potential new benefit, is scheduled to be submitted, by the National Seniors Council, to Ministers in September 2023.
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.
In January 2023, the Government of Canada welcomed the release of complementary, independent long-term care standards from CSA Group and the Health Standards Organization (HSO). Together, the standards focus on the delivery of safe, reliable, and high-quality long-term care services, safe operating practices, and infection prevention and control measures in long-term care homes.
The standards complement the Government of Canada’s collaborative work with provinces and territories to help support improvements in long-term care. Budget 2021 announced a $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. Action plans for this funding are in development by provinces and territories.
Delivery of long-term care services is a provincial and territorial responsibility. Given the constitutional division of powers, the Federal Government cannot impose national standards on provinces and territories, or directly on long-term care facilities, but the funding agreements allow all to work together to prioritize the uptake and adherence to the standards.
The Government of Canada is also looking at developing a Safe Long-Term Care Act to help ensure seniors get the care they deserve, while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has initiated consultations and engagement with stakeholders and Canadians on a principles-based Safe Long-Term Care Act.
In addition, Budget 2023 confirmed the Government’s commitment to an increase in health care funding of close to $200 billion over ten years, including $46.2 billion in new funding for provinces and territories. The plan emphasizes the key federal health priorities:
- Access to family health services;
- Building a resilient health workforce and addressing backlogs;
- Access to mental health and substance use services;
- Modernizing the health system through digital health and health data; and,
- Helping Canadians age with dignity
This new funding includes a federal investment of $1.7 billion over five years to support hourly wage increases for personal support workers and related professions, as federal, provincial, and territorial governments work together on how best to support recruitment and retention.
The Federal Government has also responded to address immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care facilities in a number of other ways:
- In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the Federal Government announced the creation of a new Safe Long-Term Care Fund. This fund transferred $1 billion to the provinces and territories to protect people living and working in long-term care;
- The Safe Restart Agreement provided provincial and territorial governments with over $19 billion to help them restart the economy, while making Canada more resilient to future surges in cases of COVID-19. This included $740 million in funding to support our most vulnerable populations through infection prevention and control measures to protect those in LTC and those receiving home care and palliative care;
- Funding totalling $10.7 million to Healthcare Excellence Canada, enabling more than 1 500 long-term care facilities and retirement homes across Canada to implement best practices for preventing and addressing COVID-19 infection;
- 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; and,
- Programs coordinated by Employment and Social Development Canada for training and work placements for personal support worker interns.
Federal investments of $24 million from 2019 to 2021 and $29.8 million from 2021 to 2027 (through Budget 2021) will advance the Government’s Action Plan on Palliative Care and lay a better foundation for coordinated action on supportive care needs. This funding complements federal investments of $6 billion over ten years to provinces and territories for home and community care, including palliative care, under the Common Statement of Principles on Shared Health Priorities.
The Action Plan on Palliative Care lays out Health Canada’s multi-year plan to tackle issues identified in the Framework on Palliative Care in Canada. Actions include: raising awareness of the importance of palliative care; providing public education on grief; improving palliative care skills and supports for health care providers, families, caregivers, and communities; enhancing data collection and research; and, improving access to culturally sensitive palliative care.
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. In 2019-2020, nearly 474 000 Canadians aged 65 and older were living with diagnosed dementia. This number is expected to rise as Canada’s aging population increases. The Government of Canada is addressing these impacts, such as through its 2019 release of the 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 provided $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 provided $20 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to increase 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 Budget 2017, the Government is investing $5 billion over ten years (2017-2027) with provinces and territories 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 Health 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 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, Budget 2021 provided $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.
As Canada heads into post-pandemic recovery, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions is committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to mental health and substance use health supports when they need them. This is reflected in the Minister’s mandate letter, which calls for mental health care to be treated as a full and equal part of our universal health care system.
To this end, and building on previous Budget 2017 investments, Budget 2023 highlighted the government's plan to provide close to $200 billion over ten years in health transfers, including $25 billion over ten years through a new set of bilateral agreements to address individual provincial and territorial health system needs, such as expanding access to family health services, supporting health workers and reducing backlogs, increasing mental health and substance use support, and modernizing health systems.
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. All of these commitments and investments in mental health, healthy aging, dementia, home care and long-term care ensure a better future for Canadians.
Response by the Minister of Labour and Seniors
Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Darren Fisher
The Government of Canada values the many contributions 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% in 2015 to 5.6% in 2021, we know that some seniors still struggle to make ends meet. This is why our government has taken action to reduce poverty for all Canadians, including seniors. 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 poverty reduction targets for all Canadians, including seniors, based on Canada’s Official Poverty Line: a 20% reduction in poverty by 2020 and a 50% reduction in poverty by 2030, relative to 2015 levels. The Government’s poverty reduction efforts are already showing positive effects. According to the 2021 Canadian Income Survey, the poverty rate was 7.4% in 2021, down from 14.5% in 2015. This represents a 49% decrease in poverty compared to 2015, the baseline year for Canada’s legislated poverty reduction targets. Between 2015 and 2021, over 2.3 million Canadians were lifted out of poverty.
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 amounts 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 from 67 back 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. This measure, along with other government initiatives and changes to the economy, lifted an estimated 45,000 seniors out of poverty.
- 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.
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 increased the OAS pension by 10% for seniors aged 75 or over. This increase was designed to address the increased vulnerability that seniors face as the age. As seniors get older, they tend to have lower income, and often face higher health-related expenses because of the onset of illness or disability. This is especially true for those 75 and older. This vulnerability is further compounded by a reduced ability to supplement their income with paid work, the risk of outliving personal savings, and the risk of widowhood. That is why the Government took action to make life more affordable for Canadians as they age.
Budget 2021 also committed $90 million 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 2025-26.
The Age Well at Home initiative will provide funding to seniors-serving organizations for local, regional and national projects which will allow for the discovery of new approaches and learnings. Projects funded under the In-Home Support Pilot Projects stream will test the extent to which volunteers can be mobilized to provide local practical supports such as meals, housekeeping, and yard work to help low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors age at home. Projects funded under the Scaling Up for Seniors stream will expand services that have already demonstrated positive results in helping seniors age at home. Organizations that serve seniors had the opportunity to apply to two competitive funding processes, one for each stream, in June 2022.
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 36,500 projects with a total investment of more than $780 million.
The 2022-2023 NHSP community-based call for proposals funded more than 3000 community projects with an investment of over $61M.
To help seniors and all Canadians get the dental care they need, Budget 2023 committed to provide $13.0 billion over five years, starting in 2023-24, and $4.4 billion ongoing to Health Canada to implement the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP). The plan will provide dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with annual family income of less than $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000. The plan will begin rolling out by the end of 2023 and will be administered by Health Canada, with support from a third-party benefits administrator. These investments build on the launch of the Canada Dental Benefits for children last year and will help seniors see a dentist when they need to and make their life more affordable.
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. The Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health have asked the National Seniors Council to serve as an expert panel to examine measures, including a potential aging at home benefit, to further support Canadians who wish to age within the comfort of their own homes. Just recently, the National Seniors Council held an online consultation inviting Canadians and stakeholders to share their lived experiences and views on ways to support Canadians in aging at home. Over 12,000 respondents provided invaluable input that will inform the government’s work on this issue. A report containing recommendations for federal consideration on potential ways to enhance current measures or introduce new ones, including a potential new benefit, is scheduled to be submitted by the National Seniors Council to Ministers in September 2023.
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. In 2021, FPT Ministers responsible for seniors approved the following priorities for the FPT Seniors Forum 2022-2025 work cycle: the role of technology to enhance aging in place; senior abuse: during the pandemic and beyond; and supportive housing for a diverse senior’s population. Ministers also approved the continuation of carry-over work on ageism. Most recently, FPT Ministers responsible for seniors met on April 25-26, 2023, in Toronto, Ontario. In addition to approving reports flowing from consultations on ageism and an analysis of gaps and challenges in preventing and responding to the mistreatment of older adults during the pandemic, they discussed measures to address affordability and cost-of-living issues for seniors and received a presentation from Ontario showcasing housing innovations to support aging.
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.
- Presented to the House of Commons
June 8, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01521)
- Government response tabled
- August 16, 2023
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.
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