FOCUS ON SENIORS: Seniors vote for reasonable candidates

Former councillor, CARP president cites taxes, services as key municipal issues

Most seniors just want a reasonable municipal government, not a perfect one.

“We’ve given up on the idea of perfect government,” said Andy Woodburn, chair of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Brantford chapter

Woodburn said most seniors want a local council to provide the services they need, maintain infrastructure at a safe and reasonable level and make sure it doesn’t cost them more than it should.

“They want safe water, clean streets, but without a big tax increase,” he said. “Will taxes keep pace with inflation or will they go up more?”

Keeping the cost of living manageable is key to enabling seniors to live in their own homes.

“Study after study has show that seniors live longer and stay healthier if they can remain in their homes longer,” Woodburn said.

The City of Brantford’s recent consideration of reducing fall leaf pickup from weekly to bi-weekly is the kind of change seniors don’t want because it limits their ability to take care of their homes at a time when the process is becoming more challenging.

Woodburn said such a move would have saved the city very little, yet affected the independence of seniors substantially.

“We let it be known that it would have been just stupid,” he said of CARP Brantford’s 1,500 members. “They can’t have leaves sitting out for two weeks and there was no real savings to it.”

Seniors who own their own homes pay a lot of taxes and expect to see them at work maintaining services for homeowners, explained Woodburn.

He believes Brantford-Brant was much better off when it had three full-service hospitals in the Branford General, St. Joe’s (which is now a long-term care facility) and the Willett in Paris, now an urgent care centre.

Yet at the same time Woodburn says hospitals are one of the most expensive services to run in a community.

“Private home care is a lot cheaper, and it allows people to stay in their homes longer,” he said.

Careful budgeting in the golden years is a fact of life for most, many of who have a fixed income dictated by personal retirement savings plans (RRSP) and a government pension plan that has been dwindling for several years. And the rate of return on personal RRSPs isn’t what it used to be dropping from an average of 10 per cent to two per cent, according to Woodburn.

During a visit to Brantford in February, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told CARP members he is optimistic the provincial government may be able to help Ontarians save for retirement, hopefully compensating for the waning Canadian Pension Plan (CPP).

“Sixty percent of people in Brantford don’t have a pension plan,” Woodburn said. “The provincial government has said they will create a new pension plan, but it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon.”

According to a recent Toronto Star article, mandatory paycheque deductions of 1.9% will take effect in 2017 under the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). Employers who don’t offer a comparable retirement savings plan will have to match the deductions. The result will be an annual benefit of $6,410.

The ORPP is meant to complement the CPP, which the federal government has not improved even though its maximum annual benefit is $12,500.

“The problem is small business will have to pay for this new pension plan,” Woodburn said. “It’s an additional tax, and that could lead to fewer full-time, permanent jobs.”

Woodburn, who served on Brantford’s municipal government from 1976 to 1997, said whomever is elected in October has a difficult road ahead balancing growth with balancing a budget. As the senior population continues to grow dramatically, council will be struggling to maintain the clean water supply and find land to develop industry and new places to lives.

Woodburn said the excuse of no good candidates to vote for won’t pass muster for this election.

The mayoral race has six candidates already, including the current mayor and members of council running. The same is true of virtually every ward. Incumbent and past councillors are running alongside former politicians from other levels of government.

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