Layton pledges insured home-care plan for seniors

Originally published in the Montreal Gazette April 3rd, 2011. To go to the Montreal Gazette website please click here

NDP leader Jack Layton has unveiled a $537-million plan he says would improve home care for Canada’s growing population of seniors and the families looking after them.

“Seniors are the fastest-growing age group in this country and they are looking to be assured that quality and accessible health care will be available when they need it,” Layton said Wednesday, during his first of three campaign days in B.C.

“Too many families are spending their life-savings on the care of their parents,” Layton told supporters in the riding of Prince George-Peace River, where the NDP has finished second in every election since 2000.

Layton attempted to sway the Western province, which has been frustrated over the HST. In his last visit to B.C., he insisted voters “kick Stephen Harper out of office” over what he called the “HST fiasco.”

Layton vowed that, if elected prime minister, he would make home care an insured service under the Canada Health Act and introduce a “Quality Home Care Plan” to improve access for some 100,000 more families a year.

He would also double the forgivable loan amount available under the existing Home Adaptations for Seniors’ Independence program to $7,000, allowing some 10,570 more people to take advantage of the benefit for home renovations.

Layton said he’d also ensure a transfer payment specifically for residential long-term care is included in the next federal-provincial Health Accord, which is due to be renewed in 2014. This is expected to provide up to 5,000 long-term care spaces per year.

“These are practical, affordable measures that will provide immediate help for seniors and families in need,” Layton said.

“What will these initiatives mean for families? Better care, shorter wait times at hospitals, and more time spent with loved ones. Our plan will free up beds in the system that are now occupied by people in need of home care or long-term care.”

In his bid to woo the elderly vote, Layton had also already promised to double the benefit seniors get from the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan over seven years and to amend bankruptcy laws to ensure pensioners and those on disability are the priority when companies go out of business.

In Winnipeg Tuesday, he announced a $1.3 billion plan to help the “sandwich generation” — those Canadians, primarily women, who are caring both for aging parents and young children. The plan includes improvements to employment insurance for mothers coming off maternity leave.

According to a Statistics Canada report, in 2007 there were about 2.7 million Canadians aged 45 and over who were providing some form of unpaid care to seniors who had long-term health problems, according to CARP, a national non-profit representing Canada’s aging population.

Barry Thorsteinson, president of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation, said the advocacy group was “very pleased” with Layton’s latest measures.

The now-dead Conservative budget included a small increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to help seniors.