National Seniors Council Report on Low Income Among Seniors

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to have received the Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors

As Minister of State (Seniors), I had asked the National Seniors Council to examine the issue of low income among seniors as one of its first priorities. In the last 25 years, the incidence of low income among seniors has declined from approximately 21 percent to just over 5 percent. Every year, public pension benefits put almost $60 billion in the hands of Canada’s seniors. We have implemented measures that have improved the financial security of seniors and low-income pensioners. Apart from support through public pensions, the Government of Canada has also been providing tax relief that benefits seniors and heightens their financial security.

Last year, the Council met with groups from across the country to discuss the issues and challenges faced by low-income seniors, and to hear ideas about how to help improve their lives.

Mr. Jean-Guy Soulière, Chair of the National Seniors Council, was instrumental in this process, and he and the Council heard from individuals from all over Canada who work directly with low-income seniors. Mr. Soulière has expressed satisfaction with the measures taken by the Government to assist low-income seniors, and has presented the advice in this report to help the Government as it continues to look into the needs of this vulnerable group.

One of the participants in the roundtable discussions was Mr. Egbert Walters, General Manager, Community Food Sharing Association, who attended a discussion group in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Walters was pleased to participate in the consultation process and felt that the Government was listening to seniors, and taking action on issues that are important to them.

This report offers advice that we will examine carefully. It describes challenges faced by low-income seniors and suggests five areas where action by the federal government would improve the well-being of low-income seniors: income; housing; transportation; health; and the delivery of services and benefits.
While the federal government contributes financially to programs and services for seniors in some of these areas, provincial, territorial and municipal governments have primary responsibility for the funding and delivery of programs related to health, housing and transportation. Low income among seniors is a national concern that requires many players including all orders of government working in partnership to address the issue successfully.

Our government is committed to ensuring that federal policies, programs and services meet the evolving needs of seniors today and in the future. We have already implemented many new initiatives that will have a positive effect on the lives of seniors.

Indeed, in Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the federal government made a clear commitment to protect Canadians, including seniors, in difficult times by implementing several key measures:

  • Increasing the Age Credit by $1,000 for 2009 and beyond to allow eligible seniors to receive up to an additional $150 in annual tax savings.
  • Providing seniors with $200 million in tax relief by reducing the required minimum withdrawal amount for 2008 from Registered Retirement Income Funds by 25 percent, in recognition of the impact of the deterioration in market conditions on retirement savings.
  • Helping older workers and their families through these tough economic times by investing an additional $60 million over three years in the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers, and by expanding the number of eligible communities to include older workers in small cities.
  • Providing $400 million over two years through the Affordable Housing Initiative for the construction of housing units for low-income seniors.
  • Establishing an independent Task Force to make recommendations on a cohesive national strategy on financial literacy for Canadians.

I invite you to read the Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors. I would like to thank Mr. Soulière and the members of the National Seniors Council for their work on the report, as well as the many participants from across the country who gave their time to join the roundtable discussions on this important subject.

Marjory LeBreton
Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors)

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