Alistair MacGregor column: Standing up for seniors

Across Canada, seniors are scared.

By Alistair MacGregor

Across Canada, seniors are scared. Our nation’s elders, who have spent their entire lives working, paying taxes, and building communities, are now facing their time of need. However, the message that I’m hearing from numerous constituents across the riding is that now, when the need for support is most critical, our nation’s seniors are falling through the cracks. So far, all that individual Canadian seniors have received is a one-time payment of $300 for those eligible for OAS, and an additional $200 for those who qualify for GIS. In most places here in the riding, $500 won’t even cover a month’s rent.

This lack of meaningful support is unacceptable. More than that, it is actively harmful, and it will be our nation’s elders who are hurt by what is effectively government negligence.

“A one-time deal is shameful. I was in tears, it is so disrespectful. Groceries have increased, the cost of medications have increased; seniors now need to go to the pharmacy three times as often to fill their prescriptions,” said Laurie, a 55-year-old constituent. “A lot of seniors have no investments. A lot don’t qualify for GIS. A lot were single parents, who spent years working two or three jobs, and who now need support. Three hundred dollars, a one-time deal, it isn’t enough. My food bank hamper is probably 60 per cent less due to COVID-19, and a lot of seniors rely on that to simply survive.”

My NDP colleagues and I are fighting hard for a number of tangible policies that would support this nation’s seniors. A universal basic income of $2,000 a month would create a safety net for both seniors and other vulnerable Canadians, and the existing OAS/GIS structure can effectively be utilized to distribute enhanced benefits to seniors needing additional support. However, a one-time payment of only $300 to individual seniors is not enough. This is especially true because large, multi-national corporations of tremendous value can access federal funding, including those that have used offshore tax havens to hide from paying their fair share in taxes.

The cost of food keeps going up, as do the expenses for much-needed prescriptions, which underlines the need for a comprehensive, public, universal, and national pharmacare plan. As one 79-year-old resident stated, “we’re all in the same boat, and $300 isn’t really that helpful given the cost of food. It doesn’t go very far, but it is better than nothing.”

COVID-19 has also laid bare the problems with Canada’s long-term care homes. More than 80 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada happened in long term care — one of the highest proportions of death in long term care in the world. The federal government has a role in solving this problem; we must provide proper funding and, while working with the provinces and territories, set national standards so all seniors across the country can age in dignity.

The people who built Canada into what it is today need our support. The federal government must lead the way in showing that our nation’s seniors are not an afterthought, but a priority; they deserve nothing less.

Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

ColumnSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Community Centre Elder College celebrates 20th anniversary

Volunteer instructors are the key to success.

Flashback: Teddy bears, dinosaurs, cougars, oh my!

Remember these stories from Cowichan Lake?

Drivesmart column: Clear your frosty windows BEFORE driving

85 per cent of the information we require to drive safely comes to us through our eyes.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Most Read