REPORT ON MOS ROUNDTABLE JANUARY 17, 2011
I attended the roundtable of the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors, in Vancouver January 17th. Jack Mar of White Rock/Surrey Chapter also attended. Other organizations represented, in addition to several federal government officials, were: Alzheimer Society British Columbia, BC Centre for Elder Advocacy Support, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia, 411 Seniors Vancouver, Park Place Seniors Living and a low income housing society.
CARP National Advocacy team provided Jack Mar and I a copy of their recent pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee. We were able to present most of those suggestions at the roundtable:
- Retirement Insecurity. The latest market meltdown has eroded retirement savings and mandatory RRIF withdrawals have added to the problem. CARP recommends the government eliminate mandatory RRIF withdrawals. We also asked for immediate relief from RRIF withdrawals, similar to the 25% credit the government granted in 2008.
- Retirement Savings Gap. CARP advocates pension reform, either through an enhanced Canada Pension plan or a separate public pension system administered either by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board or a similar public body.
- Aging at Home. Most people prefer to age at home but many need care-giving help to make it possible. CARP advocates both enhanced care giving and support for family caregivers. The value of unpaid labour contributed by informal caregivers is estimated at $25 billion a year.
Group discussion centred on Aging at Home, including help for caregivers, and seniors’ housing. Although the roundtable was supposed to discuss ways to provide jobs and strengthen the economy, the group focussed on spending more money to help seniors, particularly increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors. Minister Wong graciously listened attentively without interruption.
In her summary at the end, Minister Wong observed that GIS payments in 2011 were just under $8billion. To claim GIS, people must file income tax returns and can claim GIS back as long as ten years. A new website, www.seniors.gc.ca will be up and running within days and will give seniors an easily accessible source of a wide range of information. She has also appointed to her staff Dr. Meredith Lilly who has a PHD in gerontology.
On seniors housing, Minister Wong likes the idea of involving the private sector, including non-profits. She is keen on seniors helping seniors, paid or not. The involvement will help people to age positively. Minister Wong also said her department is working closely with CARP on elder abuse.
I found the roundtable interesting and informative, and Minister Wong receptive to the suggestions presented.
January 19, 2011