Toronto, ON, April 19—CanAge, Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization, is encouraged by key investments for older Canadians in the new federal budget but warns that many areas of urgent action remain noticeably absent in today’s announcement by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The leading advocacy organization, which represents a diverse national membership base of older people and their caregivers, made a pre-budget submission presenting over 60 evidence-based recommendations to protect the rights and well-being of aging Canadians. CanAge analyzed and scored the budget against its full priority list of asks, using a digital scoreboard on its website.
While the budget did include $3 billion for long-term care over five years, starting in 2022-23, to support provinces and territories in ensuring standards are implemented, CanAge is concerned that this won’t go far enough.
“While this investment in long-term care standards is welcome news, the far-reaching and urgently needed impact it will have is unclear,” says Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge. “We need true collaboration between the federal and provincial governments in order to prevent the further tragic loss of life.” She adds that real systemic change “takes more than just a boosted transfer of dollars. It needs complete investment in, and transformation of, the seniors’ care sector.”
She goes on to say that there is “no one label of what it means to be a senior in Canada.” “That’s why our recommendations for this budget were comprehensive, evidence-based and taken straight from the mouths of real older people with diverse lived experiences. We’re hopeful that these newly announced investments signal real commitment from the federal government to better represent the needs of Canada’s most powerful voters. We look forward to working with our federal ministers every step of the way to put their plans into action.”
Among the other noteworthy announcements in support of seniors were:
- $90 million over three years to support seniors aging in place through the “Age Well at Home” initiative
- $50 million over five years to design and deliver interventions that promote safe relationships, including elder abuse prevention
- An increase of OAS at age 75 by 10% plus a $500 one-time payment
- $29.8 million over six years to improve access to palliative care
- $100 million over three years to support people suffering mental trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic, including seniors
- $45 million over two years develop national mental health service standards
- $25 million over five years to create a National Framework for Diabetes
- $27.6 million over three years for my65+, a Group Tax-Free Savings Account offered by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare to financially support front-line health care workers
- 4 weeks, up to a maximum of 42 weeks, for the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit
- Increase disaggregated data collection by government agencies which will help seniors and others be counted and “seen”
These items were among CanAge’s recommendations to the federal government.
While these investments represent positive steps taken for older Canadians, concerns persist that the distribution of these dollars will fail to flow. The federal government’s commitment of $50 million in 2019 to a National Dementia Strategy has not been disbursed as promised—Tamblyn Watts warns that “these families and their caregivers are still waiting and there is nothing moving dementia care forward in this Federal Budget today.”
Concerningly, also missing from the budget was mention of:
- Fundamental caregiver supports for seniors’ care
- Specific investments in the Age-Tech Sector to support innovation and growth
- Eradicating Mandatory RRIF withdrawals at 70
“These are also areas of real concern for older Canadians and were noticeably absent from this budget,” warns Tamblyn Watts. “We’ll continue pressing our current government to address these and other priority issues in the coming months.”
CanAge’s federal budget recommendations came out of its comprehensive policy platform, VOICES: A Roadmap to an Age-Inclusive Canada, launched late last year. Developed through an exhaustive coast-to-coast-to-coast consultative process, VOICES pulls from evidence-based reviews, highlights best practices, and identifies stubborn or complex issues affecting older people. The 135 recommendations in the document are grouped under sections for Violence and Abuse Prevention; Optimal Health and Wellness; Infection Control and Disaster Prevention; Caregiving, Long Term Care and Housing Resources; Economic Security and; Social Inclusion.
CanAge is Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization, working to improve the lives of older adults through advocacy, policy, and community engagement. We are non-partisan and backed by a pan-Canadian membership base. CanAge has quickly established itself as Canada’s national advocate for issues affecting older people in our country, having ramped up operations last year in urgent response to the threat COVID-19 poses to vulnerable seniors in long-term care. Find out more.
Laura Tamblyn Watts