CARP has met with a succession of Ministers of State for Seniors but none with the profile and promise of Julian Fantino. A minority government facing an election is shrewd to appoint a champion for the issues that will resonate with the most politically engaged voters with a high profile in Battleground Ontario. [Pace ROC].
Clearly well briefed on CARP Advocacy issues, Minister Fantino was receptive to addressing the financial insecurity of older Canadians especially to target the relief to those most in need. He also well understood the merits of letting people keep their money in RRIFs and withdraw it as needed rather than by government edict.
He asked for and was given a full list of measures that should be in the upcoming budget, including:
– Increasing OAS and GIS substantially
– Placing a permanent moratorium on mandated RRIF withdrawals (Canadian pensioners must withdraw at almost twice the rate of their US counterparts)
– Exempting modest amounts of RRSP withdrawal from the calculation of OAS claw backs or reductions in GIS
– Increasing the allowable earnings band for GIS benefits
– Providing adequate and officially recognized ‘drop-out’ years from CPP calculations to those who perform unpaid caregiving duties
– Providing low-income, single, divorced, or widowed Canadians between the ages of 60 and 64 with supplementary income equivalent to the spousal allowance
Strictly speaking, budget measures are the purview of the finance minister but a good champion in Cabinet will speak up regardless.
Mandatory retirement is on it way to the dustbin of history and neither the Minister nor the government seems predisposed to getting in the way.
The legacy endeavour for Minister Fantino may well be concrete progress on eradicating elder abuse. From public awareness to stiff criminal consequences, there is vast array of interventions possible and little to show for all the public funds and angst spent on this scourge. True to his “just-the-facts, ma’am” reputation, the minister agrees that first we have to shape behaviour and that will shape attitudes. So just as CARP members said in response to the governments ads raising public awareness about elder abuse, enough on “awareness”, let’s get to work on prevention and if necessary, punishment.
The hour long meeting concluded with the Minister being pinned as CARP’s newest member. Let’s hope he wears the CARP pin into Cabinet meetings.
Keywords: seniors, GIS, finances