CARP looking for real solutions in Ontario’s Budget

TORONTO, March 25, 2008–CARP, a leading national voice for Canada’s 50-Plus population, will be looking for real solutions for its 250,000 members and their families living in Ontario in today’s provincial budget announcement.

Media reports suggest that the focus of this Ontario Budget will be on reducing poverty and worker re-training, but little mention has been made of the distinct impact on older workers and seniors living in poverty. Race and gender are additional challenges among low income seniors and, in larger metropolitan areas, higher living costs and social isolation add further to their burden.

“The Zoomer generation, encompassing more than 3 million Ontarians plus their families, are increasingly looking to government for a better deal for their personal finances, their healthcare and their rights in return for decades of labour and income taxes.” said Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice-President of Advocacy.

“We will be looking for announcements that ensure that income for all seniors be adequate to meet the real cost of living; that health-care services are available and accessible equitably and that age discrimination be eradicated.”

“There must be a comprehensive, and co-ordinated Anti-Poverty Strategy that treats everyone equitably, and there must also be differentiation to target the particular circumstances of groups who face distinct challenges based upon race, gender and/or urbanization.”

Canada’s workforce is aging. Results from the 2006 Census show 15.3 per cent of Canadian workers are now 55 or older, according to Statistics Canada. There is national concern that there will not be enough younger workers to replace people who are near retirement.

CARP is fully supportive of initiatives to allow Canadians to stay in the workforce longer – beyond 65 years of age – if they so desire.

In Federal Budget 2008, an extension was given to the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers to improve the re-employability of older workers in single-industry towns. It does not appear that Ontario participates in this program.

“The better focus is on how to retain older workers and their particular knowledge and experience, which cannot be found in a book,” said Bill Gleberzon, CARP Director of Government Relations. “Ontario’s legislation protecting workers must extend past age 65 and require health care and other benefits to continue.”

CARP has advocated for changes to the Pension Benefits Act to allow pensioners with locked in pensions to withdraw their money as they require it, paying income taxes where applicable. The recent federal budget proposed allowing 50% of such funds to be withdrawn. Alberta and Manitoba allow 50% and Saskatchewan permits 100% of the funds to be unlocked. Only New Brunswick and Ontario limit the withdrawal to 25% of the funds. All MP and MPP pensions were fully unlocked recently.

“The Province can improve the finances of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Ontarians with a net benefit to the public coffers by simply allowing retirees to access their own money currently held in “locked in funds”, said Eng.

CARP is a leading national voice for Canada’s 50-Plus population mandated to provide its members with powerful advocacy on issues affecting their health, their finances and their rights. CARP provides members with a range of useful benefits and savings and community support through local and regional chapters for an overall improved quality of life.