Blaine Calkins
Member of Parliament for Red Deer - Lacombe

2020-06-20 (June)

Justin Trudeau is Letting Seniors Down

Since March 16 our country has been in various stages of lockdown to combat the COVID-19 global pandemic, flatten the curve and reduce the risk. Over the past couple of months, the Liberal government has announced measure after measure, and program after program to try and help Canadians weather the economic storm caused by COVID-19 and the health restrictions that have been put in place to help combat the spread. At the same time, Canada’s Conservatives have been working hard to identify gaps these programs in order to improve the Liberals hastily thrown together measures. We have seen far too many Canadians falling through these gaps, and many more locked out of programs due to needlessly rigid regulations. While some groups find themselves inadvertently falling through the gaps, Canada’s seniors have been virtually excluded from any of the announced programs.

While seniors who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 may be eligible for the CERB, many who are retired and on a fixed income have seen their expenses increase and their savings decrease in value as the markets have been impacted by the global pandemic. The Liberal’s response was to simply lower the minimum withdrawal for Registered Retirement Income Funds, which does nothing to address the pressures of living on a fixed income. While I welcomed the announcement that the government would be providing a one-time tax-free payment for those that receive Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments, the government still isn’t able to say when these payments will be received. All that they have been able to tell us is that it in order to receive the one-time payment, a senior must be eligible to receive OAS or GIS in June 2020. Conservatives have called for the government to allow for a one-time tax-exempt withdrawal up to a certain amount from their RRSP or RRIF to help them get through this difficult time, but this request has not yet been taken up.

Last week the horrible living conditions in Long Term Care homes in Ontario and Quebec were brought to light by the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. All Canadians are grateful that our armed forces members stepped up for Canadians when we needed them, and for shining a light on these horrific and totally unacceptable circumstances. Despite all the Liberal’s outrage on this horrible situation, it still isn’t clear why they sat on this report for nearly two weeks and did nothing. When asked by the Premier of Quebec to extend the assistance by the Canadian Armed Forces into the Fall, the Liberals have said no, but they haven’t been able to explain why not. What more important tasks do our armed forces need to be doing, other than assisting the generation that built our great country? While these events may be happening out East, the principle remains the same – governments need to do more to ensure that seniors have quality care across the country. The Liberals must ensure that our healthcare workers have the critical supplies they need to do their jobs safely, including those that take care of our seniors’ population.

While the Liberals seem focused on expanding the ability for Canadians to “die with dignity”, perhaps they ought to spend more time and effort on ensuring Canadians can “live with dignity.”
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Blaine Calkins - Member of Parliament for Red Deer - Lacombe