CARP weighs in on Ontario budget

The recent economic downturn has forced many Canadians over the age of 45 into difficult financial circumstances. People planning to retire have seen their retirement portfolios devastated. And those who have already reached retirement have taken a severe financial hit, with little chance to recoup the losses.

“These are people who have spent their lives contributing to the economy; the least we can do is contribute to their well-being when they most need it,” says Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy.

In light of this, CARP submitted strong recommendations to Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, to convince the Liberal government to include measures in their 2009 Budget that address the financial security of the province’s older, hard-hit residents.

Just the same, CARP’s recommendations were not for major public spending but for a realignment of public priorities that will lever rather than replace the endeavours and contributions of a demographic that has thrived on self-reliance. We have not lost sight of those needing income support and recommend measures that would provide immediate relief as well as allow people to continue taking responsibility for themselves and their loved ones.

The highlights of CARP’s brief included:

Unlock LIF’s – Permit full unlocking of Life Income Funds, allowing people to access their savings as they need them. This would eliminate the costs and bureaucracy of granting people access to their own money. Such a move would not cost the government and could, in fact, generate tax revenues as people begin spending this money.

Pension Reform – Follow the recommendations of the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions and undertake pension reform that rebalances the rights and powers of the employers and the plan members. This includes contingency funding, bankruptcy protection and a governance role for plan members.

Pension Summit – Support a Pension Summit to coordinate national pension reform and to include the input of knowledgeable retirees.

National Securities Regulator and Enforcement Agency – Support the establishment of a national securities regulator and investor protection and enforcement agency. For smaller investors (especially retirees hit hard by the market turbulence), enforcing market regulations is more important than one national regulator or several provincial ones.

Universal Pension Plan – Implement a universal supplementary pension plan for those without any retirement savings.

CARP also suggested ways to provide relief for low-income seniors, including property tax relief, increase in GAINS support payments and kinship care allowance. To support older workers who need to remain on the job, CARP called for Ontario government programs to help older workers to stay employed, and help employers to keep older workers. And on the health front, CARP raised the issues of family caregiver support, long term care, pharmacare and out of country reimbursement.

“These recommendations do not require significant expenditure of public funds,” says Eng. “Instead, it requires the investment of political capital directed to this growing and hard hit sector of the population.”

For a copy of the fall brief, Click here