Decision Time As Ontario heads to the polls, CARP examines the parties’ platforms on key seniors’ issues. Plus, how the other provinces stack up
Before Ontario goes to the polls, Marissa Semkiw, CARP’s director of policy, surveyed the major parties to find out where they stand on the key seniors’ issues
What will you do to combat seniors’ homelessness?
Liberal The vision of the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) is to … prevent, reduce and end homelessness in communities all across Ontario. In 2016-17, CHPI helped around 32,300 households experiencing homelessness to obtain housing. To achieve our goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025, we have increased CHPI funding by $15 million this year. Last March, we also announced the Home for Good program, which will invest up to $200 million in supportive housing and services to help up to 6,000 families and individuals over three years. Ontario is also leading the way as the first jurisdiction in Canada to require homeless counts in our cities and towns. These enumerations will measure the scope of homelessness so we can take targeted steps to bring Ontario’s most vulnerable residents home for good.
Progressive Conservative First and foremost, Kathleen Wynne has made life in Ontario more expensive. She has raised taxes, increased fees and tripled hydro bills. All of these costs hit seniors the hardest since most seniors are retired and live on a fixed income. We will make life more affordable for seniors by bringing down hydro rates and cutting taxes. We will take action to increase the supply of housing to bring down the costs of rent and housing.
New Democratic Party There are now more families waiting for affordable housing than living in affordable housing, with seniors accounting for 32 per cent of the waiting lists, up 10 per cent from a decade ago. An NDP government will step up with increased public investments in new affordable housing, based on annual targets, working with partners that include the municipal, co-op and not-forprofit sectors. At the same time, we must save the affordable housing we already have ... the Wynne government has repeatedly refused to provide provincial funding to repair municipal social housing. An Ontario NDP government will ensure these homes are saved by committing to fund at least one-third of the costs of social housing capital repairs.
What will you do to further reduce hydro costs in this province?
Liberal Through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan (as of July 1, 2017), we have lowered electricity bills by 25 per cent on average for residential customers ... small businesses and farms are also receiving a benefit.
Rate increases over four years will be held to the rate of inflation. While rates will rise gradually over time, the government remains committed to avoiding sharp increases. We are also committed to supporting people with low incomes and those living in eligible rural or remote communities by providing significant reductions – up to 40 or 50 per cent – on residential electricity bills. As part of Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, the Affordability Fund was launched … to help Ontarians not eligible for low-income conservation programs and who need support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Eligible applicants are receiving benefits that could include, for example, LED light bulbs, power bars, energy-efficient appliances and better insulation.
Progressive Conservative Under the Liberals, hydro rates have tripled, with bills going up by more than $1,000 a year. This is all because of failed green energy act experiments, overpaying salaries for hydro CEOs and an overall mismanagement of our energy system. We’ll take immediate action to deliver real hydro relief for families and seniors.
New Democratic Party Our plan will lower hydro costs for all ratepayers by up to 30 per cent and keep them down. By bringing Hydro One back into public ownership … we will get private profits off your hydro bill and make Ontario’s hydro system work for Ontarians. The NDP will permanently exempt hydro from the provincial HST and pressure the federal government to do the same. We will end mandatory time-of-use premiums that hurt Ontario families who have no control over when they need to use power. The NDP will get rid of unfair rural hydro delivery rates that are the highest in Canada. The NDP will expand hydro rate relief for low-income Ontarians.
What will you do improve resident safety in long-term care? In particular, will you commit to introducing mandatory staffing levels? If so, what will those staffing levels be?
Liberal We are partnering with the Michener Institute on a Personal Support Worker Registry that will improve transparency for patients and families and give them the peace of mind that the people who are delivering their essential care have the necessary training to care for them and their loved ones. With the passing of the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act, new enforcement tools, including financial penalties and new offences for operators who repeatedly do not comply, are now available to ensure the trust we place in home operators to care for our loved ones is upheld. In November 2017, we announced that 5,000 new long-term care beds would be created by 2022 and over 30,000 over the next decade. The province will also prioritize reducing wait times for those in hospitals or in the community who would benefit most by long-term care. The needs of long-term care residents are becoming more complex. That is why we are investing $300 million over three years in new funding, starting with $50 million in 2018–19 to hire a registered nurse for every home, and setting a goal of increasing the provincial average to four hours of daily care per resident by 2022. This will provide residents with more direct, one-on-one patient care, including nursing, personal support and therapeutic care. It will also ensure that every home will have staff with specialized training in behavioural supports and in palliative and endof-life care.
Progressive Conservative We’ll make sure that seniors feel safe and protected in their long-term care facilities. We’ll continue regular inspections and ensure that every operator running a long-term care home is abiding by the terms of their contract, which includes – first and foremost – the safety of their residents. In addition, we’ll build more long-term care facilities.
New Democratic Party Andrea Horwath is the only leader who will launch a full public inquiry into long-term care within 100 days of being elected as Ontario’s next premier. We will find and fix the problems in long-term care in order to make every home safer for residents – and to give every senior the comfort and dignity they deserve. Andrea will restore this legislated minimum standard of care for all long-term care homes. Every resident must get the care that they need, every day. Only the NDP will ensure that long-term care homes are funded and mandated to provide a daily minimum of four hours of hands-on care on average for each long-term care resident. We will also make it a right of spouses not to be separated against their will in long-term care. Couples who have spent their entire lives together should never be separated by a system that doesn’t work for them.
What will you do to better protect pension security for retirees in this province? The Liberal government has said it would relax solvency rules for defined benefit pension plans and increase the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF) by $500 monthly. CARP believes that the PBGF should be indexed to the year’s maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE)
as defined under CPP. The YMPE for 2018 is $55,900. Will you commit to enhancing the PBGF beyond $1,500 monthly?
Liberal The government has introduced certain amendments to the Pension Benefits Act in the spring [Budget] bill. One such measure is intended to extend the recent increase of the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) guarantee retroactively to members of the Sears pension plan. This would ensure that Ontario members with a monthly benefit of up to $1,500 would receive their full entitlement. Another measure, the introduction of a disclosable events regime, would strengthen the protection of pensioners by introducing mandatory disclosure of certain employer-related or plan-related events.
This will alert the pension regulator to potential issues, such as significant asset stripping or the issuance of extraordinary dividends when a plan is significantly underfunded. Another measure is creating an advisory committee within the new pension regulator, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). This would help plan members by having a subcommittee dedicated to overseeing issues related to pension plans with distressed sponsors, allowing the regulator to respond quickly to the challenges that threaten pension security. The government will also develop a distressed pension plan workout scheme, which would assist in situations where an employer is showing signs of financial difficulty and may be unable to meet its pension plan obligations in the future. Progressive Conservative If you work day in day out for a pension and then retire, you expect that pension to be there. It should be there. It’s what you were promised then it’s what you deserve. Unfortunately, Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have created an Ontario that businesses just can’t compete in. Suffocating red tape, skyrocketing hydro rates and environmental cash grabs are driving jobs out of the province and forcing businesses to close. When those businesses close, their pensioners suffer. Enough is enough. We’ll make Ontario prosperous once more so that workers can rest assured that their pensions will be strong and protected. That is the way forward, to let private sector businesses flourish and take care of their own workers.
New Democratic Party An NDP government is committed to enhancing the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) to $3,000 monthly and to ensure future benefits grow with inflation. This is in line with the recommendations from the 2008 Expert Commission on Pensions, which consecutive Liberal governments failed to act on until the recent modest increase to the Fund. While the $500 increase is welcome, it is far from sufficient to compensate for the PBGF being frozen for over 30 years.