New federal report on housing: Improve affordability to enable more seniors to age in place in their homes https://www.letstalkhousing.ca/pdfs/what-we-heard.pdf …
A new study has found that food insecurity among Canada’s seniors is cut in half once they turn 65 and Canada’s Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs kick in. The results indicate how important a guaranteed income -even the relatively small one provided by OAS and GIS- can be in reducing poverty, say the study’s authors.
“This study demonstrates that even small amounts of guaranteed annual income can have a potentially important impact on poverty,” says study co-author Dr. Daniel Dutton of the University of Lethbridge’s Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy.
In Canada, poverty is a significant social problem. Approximately 12.9 per cent of Canadians or 4.3 million people live on incomes below the poverty threshold, according to a 2013 Statistics Canada report. And compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, Canada’s poverty rate is higher than average, even though its national income levels are within the top tier for OECD countries.
For seniors, however, Canada seems to be doing something right, as less than six per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 currently live on incomes below the poverty line, giving Canada one of the lowest elderly poverty rates among OECD nations.
A big reason for this is the income floor provided by OAS and GIS, which together give low-income seniors a minimum non-taxable yearly income of $15,949.68 (by 2015 numbers).
But how effective are the federal guaranteed income programs for seniors in alleviating real poverty? To find out, researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge looked at seven years of data from the Canadian Community Health Survey and focused on food insecurity for seniors aged 55 to 74 from low-income, single-person households (those making less than $20,000 per year).
Strongly associated with instances of poverty, food insecurity is described as having insufficient access to affordable and nutritious food. About four million Canadians face food insecurity problems, with a disproportionate amount of them living in Indigenous communities.
The researchers found that the prevalence of food insecurity for low-income seniors under the age of 65 was around 43 per cent, but once federal programs kicked in at age 65, that number dropped to as low as 16 per cent. The result was the same regardless of the senior’s sex, income level or home ownership, which shows the success of OAS and GIS in staving off poverty, says Dutton.
“Remember, the amount of money they receive is not a lot by any standard, it certainly isn’t making them rich by any means, but what it is doing is giving them a measure of stability,” says Dutton. “These people are now no longer unsure of what their future holds in terms of supplemented income from the government and that’s very important.”
The results raise the question of the arbitrariness of having OAS and GIS start at 65, rather than sometime earlier. If the programs are successful in cutting down food insecurity and poverty – both of which are known to have significant economic and health impacts – then why not start them earlier, says Dutton. “Currently, age 65 is the magic number for some reason. The question we ask ourselves, why age 65, why not at 63? What is it about 65 that makes these people more deserving of Old Age Security?”
In 2031, seniors will reach 23% of pop. up from 15% in 2011
Provinces push for more federal health spending as senior population grows
Provinces with older-than-average populations are pushing Ottawa to boost health transfers based on demographics as part of a new national health accord.
But provinces and territories are also expressing increased frustration with the federal Liberals over an apparent unwillingness to discuss increased federal spending on health.
Preparing for a rise in health-care costs as baby boomers retire is shaping up as a key point of contention as federal Health Minister Jane Philpott prepares for an Oct. 18 meeting with the provinces and territories on health-care reform.
Several provincial health ministers said in interviews this week that they want to see increased federal health transfers that are weighted to prioritize regions facing the most pressing demographic pressures. “I have raised it at every opportunity,” said British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake. “We haven’t seen any positive response but the dialogue will continue.”
In New Brunswick, where there were more deaths than births recorded for the first time last year, Health Minister Victor Boudreau said his province is trying to keep costs under control but needs more money from Ottawa.“The older you get, the more you require services from the health system,” he said.
Premiers are also escalating their opposition to planned changes to health transfers, asking for a first ministers meeting on health in addition to one already planned on climate change.
Writing as chair of the Council of the Federation, Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – obtained and reported on by the CBC Wednesday and confirmed by The Globe – that the provinces and territories would like to see a health meeting confirmed before a meeting is held on the environment. If that isn’t possible, the premiers want Ottawa to delay planned changes to health transfers by one year.
The pace of Canada’s demographic change was highlighted Wednesday when Statistics Canada released updated population figures. The estimates show nearly six million seniors in Canada this year, up from 4.3 million in 2006. Statistics Canada has previously estimated that all baby boomers will have reached the age of 65 by 2031, when the proportion of seniors could reach 23 per cent of the total population, up from 15 per cent in 2011.
A sense of the coming negotiations will emerge publicly Thursday when health-care experts from across Canada, as well as Dr. Philpott and her Quebec counterpart, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, speak at a conference co-sponsored by the Canadian Medical Association in Ottawa.
The CMA has submitted a proposal to the federal government that calls for an annual top-up to existing health transfers that would start at $1.7-billion in 2017 and would be divided among the provinces based on demographic pressures. President Granger Avery said Ottawa needs to boost transfers but it must also work with the provinces to tackle some of the nagging major structural problems in the health system.
Dr. Avery said governments could save billions by working together on prescription-drug policies and by shifting treatment away from hospitals in favour of home care where possible. Dr. Avery said he’s optimistic these talks will go beyond wrangling over transfer formulas and will actually address these issues.
Dr. Barrette, the Quebec Health Minister, said he does not share the CMA’s optimism that talks will result in meaningful change. Since last October’s election, he said there’s been virtually no behind-the-scenes talks between Ottawa and the provinces on health.
“It’s extremely disappointing to this point,” he said. “I’m expecting the federal government to come down from their ivory tower and tell Canadians exactly what they will do … This is a government that said they would distance themselves from the Conservatives. They’re doing exactly the same thing.”
So far, Dr. Philpott has attempted to refocus discussion away from the transfer formula in favour of negotiations on a separate “health accord” of specific issues such as home care, palliative care and mental health.
The Liberals’ election platform promised $3-billion over four years for home care. However, Dr. Philpott has said she has no plans to reverse next year’s scheduled change to the health transfer formula. That change will end the automatic 6-per-cent annual increase that has been in place since 2004. The new formula is based on economic growth, with a guaranteed minimum transfer increase of 3 per cent.