For Canadian seniors, retirement is supposed to be the golden years. Now, thanks to a deficit-obsessed government, seniors are being forced to directly suffer for out-of-control federal spending.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) provides an additional monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security (OAS) pension recipients, who have no other source of income. When the Conservatives were the Government of Canada, in cases where couples who were previously not eligible for the supplement based on their total family income, and who were involuntarily separated, (for example, one spouse being admitted to a long-term care facility), the spouse remaining in the marital home could apply to be reassessed as a single individual rather than as part of a couple. Singles receive a higher benefit than individuals living together as a couple.
This provision has been quietly discontinued by the Federal Government, forcing a number of seniors to face the immense economic burden of living below the same poverty level guidelines used for the calculation of the guaranteed income supplement.
Take for example, a couple where the spouse admitted to a retirement home has a work pension and the other spouse does not. Currently, the rates set by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for a basic, ward room at a long-term care facility is set at $1,819/month. The couple now have to pay not only for their marital home but also the additional cost of a long-term care admission. A significant amount of the family income would be required to pay for the second residence. The spouse at home would be forced to rely solely on whatever is left of their total income to make ends meet. They would not be eligible to be reassessed for the income supplement as a ‘single’ individual under these new liberal party rules.
This change has resulted in is seniors being forced into very difficult economic situations at a challenging time in their lives. In Renfrew County many seniors face energy poverty thanks to the Toronto liberal policy of high electricity rates. I have had seniors show me electricity bills higher than their monthly old age pension cheques!
Seniors in this situation not only face the stress and anxiety of living away from their spouse but also the increased financial stress that comes with the additional costs of long-term care. It is plain conservative common-sense that the spouse, who is now being forced to live on their own in the marital home, has the right to be reassessed as a ‘single’ individual. They are being involuntarily forced into a situation where they must pay the costs associated with running a household on their own when they previously had the support of the income from their partner. Some seniors have even gone so far as to consider filing for divorce so that they can receive the income they need to survive.
The liberal party has not been open and transparent about this change. Seniors in our riding are being hurt by this unfair policy. It’s time to reverse this irresponsible decision which puts undue financial hardship on low-income seniors at an already difficult time in their lives.