CARP’s Say on Ontario 2022 Budget

CARP Review of Ontario 2022 Budget

The Ontario Budget was released at the tail end of April.  You can see the full document here.

There is a marked increase in health care investment and a few tax benefits.  However, CARP worries that the immediate needs of older adults were pushed to the background.   Particularly considering the realities we have lived through during the pandemic as well as the fact that the Canadian census forecasts that over the next 20 years, Canada’s population age 65 and older is expected to grow by 68%. Some experts predict it will double.

This budget largely consist of items that have been announced by Ford and his ministers in recent weeks.  There were just enough perks to keep older Ontarians interested.

Finance Minister said the budget was “a plan for rebuilding Ontario’s economy.” CARP was looking for a plan to fix our health care system. You would have thought that after the experience with COVID, the government would see citizens health as the number one priority.  It was #6, at the end, in the Budget documents.

The Premier heard from CARP members when he attended our Annual General Meeting in February.  While he has touched on themes that are important to our members, including long-term care and home care, he has suspended the house until September. Wrapping up the legislature — and curtailing debate on the document — renders the budget a PC party election platform.

“CARP Members will be generally disappointed…. nothing in the budget to address immediate needs and shortfalls and still not enough investment to address future pressure on health care needs of older Ontarians,” said Chief Community Officer Anthony Quinn, the lead for CARPS Ontario election advocacy.

 “We’ve put forth a strong agenda of shorter term actions that would meaningfully improve the lives of seniors in Ontario, said Bill VanGorder CARP Chief Operating and Policy Officer and it’s disappointing to see so few of them reflected in this budget.”  But CARP will not let the discussion die, he said.  We need to change healthcare. Our almost 240,000 members in Ontario are primed and ready to push our advocacy agenda.”

Budget disappointments: 

  • Nothing on Wait times. We need to increase seeing patients by 30% to bring wait times down to pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Vaccines –Nothing re CARP’s demand that Ontario must fully fund and improve access to best in class vaccines such as flu, shingles and pneumonia for older adults. Adult Immunization is an effective and cost-efficient way for Ontario to protect the health of older adults.
  • Nothing on Dental care – The Ontario Dental Plan for Seniors is not meeting the  needs of patients. In current practice, low income seniors have to apply for a special card to receive low cost or no cost dental care… but the program isn’t available in most communities, and even if you can get the card, you can’t take it to your local dentist, but have to join a very long wait list to see a dentist working for the public health unit.  This program isn’t as promised. The next government must commit to fix this and ensure that all low income seniors who qualify have timely access to dentists in their community. 
  • Nothing on Fitness for Older Adults – CARP calls on the provincial government to introduce a $1200 refundable tax credit that will incentivize providers to create engaging programs and opportunities designed for older adults – and help offset the costs of these fitness programs for seniors, so they can play a part in their own  health through fitness activities.
  • Nothing regarding the commitment to end hallway medicine  
  • Nothing about increasing protection for defined benefit pensioners to protect the retirement security of Ontarians

Some positive items although many of them repeats or enhancements of previously announced measures:

  •  Ontario Premier Doug Ford promises to cut income taxes for Ontarians earning less than $50,000 a year through increased eligibility in the low income family tax credit (LIFT).  There are 1.6 million 65+ in Ontario that  have personal income of $50,000 or less who will see about $300 ($25/month) in tax relief. With over 12% of seniors living below the poverty line, this will be of some help, but at less than a dollar a day… not going to perceptibly change the lifestyle of anyone, particularly in a time of rampant inflation. 
  • Home and vehicle modification program for those needing help with accessibility.
  • Restated promises to build 30,000 net new LTC beds by 2028.   These beds are supported by planned investments that total $6.4B since spring 2019 . They are necessary and a welcome part of LTC infrastructure…. but today we have 38,000 Ontarians on the waiting list for LTC.  What will that wait list be six years from now?  
    • Not addressed: the clear need to transform the model of care provided in LTC to a patient-centred, emotion-based care.  The philosophy of seniors care has to be transformed from the top and we will be pressing for  the Ontario PCs to promise this vitally important change during the campaign… A missed opportunity.
    •  Not adequately addressed: the shortage of nurses, PSWs, family doctors  and geriatric specialists – Who will care for all these seniors in hospitals, LTC beds and in home care settings?  The current strategy (retaining nurses with incentives, possible new medial schools, incentivizing internationally trained workers or students/graduates to stay and work) is not a broad enough response to meet the current and looming crisis
    • $515 million per year over the next three years additional dollars for home care (currently spending almost $3 billion, serving 1 million families). This is not addressing the shortage of workers.  A larger investment would meet need far more adequately while achieving savings in hospitals and LTC.
  •  Ontario Senior Care A proposed refundable Ontario Seniors Care at Home Tax Credit to provide an estimated $110M to help seniors aged 70 and older with eligible medical expenses (e.g, medical devices, nurse’s visits, cost of dentures, wheelchairs or scooters). The credit is expected to support 200,000 families earning under $65,000. The credit will be an average of $550 per family, with a maximum up to $1500 per year, income tested.
  •  Home Safety Tax Credit, 25 % up to $2500.But only available to those who can spend $10,000 on home improvements. 
  • Low income housing was mentioned but the solutions were not planned to be  effective for many years.
  • Decrease in gas tax at the pumps for six months to provide relief  for families.
  • Support for Entrepreneurs will be of interest to the older Ontarians who have left lifetime jobs and now want to start their own businesses, positioning the province as the fastest and easiest jurisdiction to start up and scale up a business. 
  • Investing an additional $204 million in  Mental Health services to build on investments and achievements to date, and to continue to move forward with expanding existing services, implementing innovative solutions and improving access to mental health and addiction services. 

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