What will be done to improve the quality of life for seniors? That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or the parties.
Leading up to the election, we’re publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is: What will you do to improve the quality of life for low income seniors?
As of Oct. 17, The Discourse received answers from all four candidates via email. I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.
Kelly Darwin, BC Liberal Party
Our seniors should be revered and celebrated. Instead, we have people who worked their entire lives having to decide between food, rent and medication while our government puts funding into unnecessary items. We need to put more emphasis on senior care and create environments where seniors are celebrated not hidden away. The BC Liberals just announced a seniors home care tax credit that would leave up to $7,000 in the pockets of seniors so they can afford to stay at home longer. We also committed to investing $1 billion over the next five years in seniors care and long-term care homes.
John Horgan, BC NDP
Over the past three years, our BC NDP government has expanded and increased the shelter aid for elderly renters (SAFER) supplement, made renting more affordable by a limiting rent increases to the rate of inflation, expanded BC’s Pharmacare plan and restored the BC Ferries discounted seniors rate, which was cut by the Liberals in 2013. Our BC NDP government made these changes to make life more affordable and more comfortable for seniors living on a fixed income, but there is more to do.
Keeping seniors safer and healthier is an important part of our plan to improve quality of life for low income seniors. We’ll make sure long-term care remains robust, well-funded, and able to quickly respond to a crisis. This includes hiring 7,000 new health care workers in long-term care and assisted living, bringing back the long-term care jobs that were privatized by the BC Liberals. We’re working with non-profits to build public care homes that keep seniors safer, healthier and more comfortable. When it comes to improving home care, we have committed to expanding publicly funded home care to provide better care and help with daily living – bathing, dressing, meal preparation and more – so that people can stay in their own homes for as long as is safely possible. It will also improve continuity of care with seniors receiving visits from a more consistent group of care aides.
Increasing affordability for seniors is also important. We are fighting for a national Pharmacare program while enhancing Fair Pharmacare and we will continually review cost thresholds and drug eligibility with the goal of bringing the cost of prescription drugs down for you. To make life more affordable for all renters – particularly during the new hardship caused by COVID-19 – we will freeze rents until the end of 2021. After that, the action we took to limit rent increases to the rate of inflation will be made permanent. Additionally, if re-elected, our BC NDP government will be providing a renter’s rebate. This income-tested renter’s rebate of $400 a year for households earning up to $80,000 annually that are not already receiving other rental support.
Gord Baird, BC Green Party
I support the Green Party of BC’s proposal to make all senior care facilities public and not for-profit. I also support the Green Party’s announcement of $1 billion to address mental health issues including the mental health of seniors. There is a particular focus in that announcement on loneliness in seniors.
Seniors would benefit from a guaranteed livable income (GLI) so they don’t have to choose between taking their medication, paying the rent and utilities, and eating. GLI has been a Green Party policy for many years. COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear that a GLI system could effectively and efficiently replace a piecemeal approach of top-ups, welfare, employment benefits and wage subsidies.
The Green Party of BC just proposed rent grants for those whose rent is more than 30 per cent of their income.
Tyson Riel Strandlund, Communist Party of BC
Social assistance and disability rates we’d raise by 100%, and taxes on incomes under $40,000 would be eliminated. Seniors would further benefit from our substantial investments in social and low-income housing. Private, for-profit long-term care homes need to be cracked down on, and the highest possible standards enforced by harsh legal penalties.
- The BC Liberal Party platform pledges to provide “more dignified seniors’ care” with investments in long-term care facilities and a new tax credit for seniors of up to $7,000 a year for the cost of home care. The full platform is available online.
- The BC NDP platform is broken down into commitments online and pledges “a better life for seniors” with the hiring of more health care workers in long-term care and assisted living, keeping seniors safe in a crisis, building better, public long-term care homes and more.
- In the BC Green Party platform, a proposal to end the privatization of long-term care is highlighted as well as giving the Office of the Seniors Advocate more independence and an expanded mandate and establishing caregivers as a recognized health care profession.
- The Communist Party of BC platform does not include points specifically about seniors, but does mention putting resources under public ownership and raising social assistance and disability rates by 100 per cent.
- CTV News, through The Canadian Press, reports that both the BC NDP and BC Liberals pledge to keep seniors in their homes for longer.