Election 2015: Promises cover retirement age, drug plan

Seniors hold a special place in the hearts of all politicians because they vote.

Seniors hold a special place in the hearts of all politicians because they vote.

The candidates in the running for the Cowichan-Malahat-Lanford seat in the Oct. 19 federal election are all eager to share their vision for helping seniors in the Cowichan Valley and across Canada.

Conservative hopeful Martin Barker pointed to his party’s record.

“The Conservative government has increased healthcare transfers to the provinces by 70 per cent and has made commitments to continue increasing healthcare transfers into the foreseeable future.”

He also said that by enacting income splitting for seniors, the Tories have ensured that one million Canadians are no longer on the tax rolls, including low income seniors.

The Conservative government has also increased tax-free savings account limits to $10,000.

“This is a vehicle which is allowing seniors to extend their retirement incomes,” he said.

Barker also expects to see the establishment of a $2,000 single seniors tax credit that will extend additional annual tax relief to nearly 1.6 million single and widowed seniors in Canada who have pension income, if the Conservatives are re-elected.

He also pointed to “a strong, growing economy with balanced budgets” as ways to protect social programs and health care spending.

New Democrat Alistair MacGregor said senors issues really matter.

“We owe something to the people who built Canada: the chance to age with dignity. The NDP wants to tackle that. We want to boost the Guaranteed Income Supplement and put seniors out of poverty,” he said.

MacGregor said the NDP wants to address high cost medicines.

“One of the things we’ve advocated for is a national pharmacare plan. If you use the federal government’s bulk purchasing power, you can drastically reduce the cost of prescription drugs. There are estimates that we could reduce it by about $9 billion a year,” MacGregor said, adding, “The danger with high prescription costs is that sometimes people on low incomes will skip their medication and that can lead to really bad complications.”

MacGregor sees the aging workforce as a challenge for the next prime minister.

“I see immigration as an important factor to make sure we have the healthy demographic range,” he said. “We want to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan further so that people who contribute have a safe set of earnings when they retire and bring the age of qualifying for old age security back down to 65.”

Liberal candidate Maria Manna is particularly happy that her party would also move the retirement age back to 65.

She also wanted to make it clear that the Liberal Party is not planning to cut income splitting for seniors.

“These are people who’ve worked hard all their lives; they deserve that. To take anything away from them is just not fair,” she said.

And for single, low-income seniors, Liberals plan to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by 10 per cent, Manna said.

“That will provide up to $920 extra for them each year,” she added.

Manna said that while the Liberals don’t have a policy directly about the cost of medications, “I do know that we want to make them more affordable for seniors.”

One of the special things about seniors is that many are forward-looking, she said.

“I have noticed when talking with seniors about voting that they have a very progressive way of thinking. Many have said: ‘We want a younger government and younger, fresher minds in government because we want young people to be active and involved in the betterment of Canada.’ And, of course, they want young people to vote. I was really impressed with that.”

The Green Party’s Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi said her party’s seniors’ strategy includes a guaranteed liveable income, which would address the financial challenges that seniors have, ensuring that everyone is at a certain level above the poverty line.

“We have announced our national pharmacare plan, which would reduce the cost of prescription drugs and which would save a lot of people money,” she said.

“In addition to that you know we want to create a national dementia strategy. Of course that will take discussions with the experts in the field but we know our seniors population is growing and we want to ensure that seniors are able to live at home as much and as long as possible and to put supports in place for that. Also, you know there is the important and sensitive question around end of life choices, which will also require a lot more conversation,” she said.

These issues hit hard in northern or rural communities because “access to services and housing is not there,” Hunt-Jinnouchi said, suggesting that co-ops may be one answer.

Helping seniors to retrofit their homes so they can stay at home is also a Green Party seniors strategy.