Seniors represent the fastest growing demographic in the country and the next government has an important role to play in adapting public policies and systems to the needs of today’s growing seniors population, and in future-proofing our policies and systems for tomorrow’s seniors. The National Association of Federal Retirees has launched a campaign to ensure these issues are front and centre on the political agenda.
In this election, the National Association of Federal Retirees has four key priorities: retirement income security, a National Seniors Strategy, support for veterans and their families, and pharmacare.
Make retirement income more secure
Statistics Canada estimates that 12% of senior families are considered low income and that 28.5% of single seniors qualify as low income — that’s 600,000 Canadian seniors living in poverty. While recent increases to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security program (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) are a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to ensure that older Canadians can afford to enjoy a healthy, active and dignified retirement.
A defined benefit pension is a pension as we traditionally think of it. Employers and employees contribute to a pension fund which is pooled and invested. Retirees are paid a specific amount, for the rest of their lives, using a formula that usually considers years of employment and salary. The rate of individuals covered by a defined-benefit pension continues to decline across the country, from 70% in 2005 to 42% in 2015 for those covered by a registered retirement plan in the private sector, even though, when properly managed, this pension option is the best way to ensure retirement income security. Defined benefits pensions are proven to make retirement secure and to enable Canadians to continue to contribute meaningfully to local and national economies and communities. Up to 80% of all pension dollars spent come from investment returns, which are then pumped right back into local economies.
But we have only to look at the recent Sears example to know that defined benefit pensions are not always guaranteed. More work is needed to ensure employees and retirees aren’t left out in the cold when their employers go bankrupt, and that pensions are protected during insolvencies.
Implement a National Seniors Strategy
Older Canadians are the fastest growing segment of our population, but gaps in Canada’s healthcare and social policies are creating barriers to seniors’ independence and the essential role they play in vibrant, healthy communities and economies.
Tackling these issues independently will not give us the results we need. A coordinated National Seniors Strategy, with dedicated funding and accountable goals will ensure we meet the evolving needs of seniors.
Better well-being for veterans and their families
Veterans face challenges in receiving the support they need to have an acceptable quality of life after service.
Transition to civilian life is a big change that can be especially challenging for those who are dealing with illness, injury or trauma. Transferring to the civilian medical system is often marked by difficulty finding family doctors, long waits and incomplete or missing medical records. These challenges can mean that ill or injured veterans are unable to access financial, health and other benefits and services from Veterans Affairs Canada.
Moves are realities of military service that directly impact families too. It’s important that those who are providing care and support to ill and injured veterans also have access to tools and supports.
Rebuilding trust with veterans is critical. Whether you were a veteran forced to take your own government to court for earned benefits or healing from military sexual trauma, broken trust in the chain of command and in our government is felt by some of today’s veterans. Numerous changes to the Minister for Veterans Affairs and payment calculation errors compound this lack of confidence in the system veterans rely on.
Finally, military and veteran women face additional challenges. Women comprise about 16% of the military and there is a goal to have 25% serving by 2025. Yet aspects of military and veterans systems are gender-blind with systemic biases and research gaps.
Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not also provide universal drug coverage. Canadians consistently pay among the highest prices for prescription drugs. Twenty per cent of Canadians have inadequate coverage to meet their needs. One in four households in Canada can’t afford to fill their prescriptions.
A universal, public pharmacare program would help Canadians better manage their health, lead to reduced medication costs and allow for better monitoring of the effectiveness and safety of medications. It would also reduce the burden on other parts of the health care system.