Greetings from the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and the Member of Parliament for Delta.
Hello everyone and thank you so much for having me to speak to you today.
I’m joining you from the traditional, unceded territory of the Tsawwassen and Musqueam First Nations, in Delta, BC.
I’m really happy to join all of you for this important conversation on improving the lives of Canadian seniors. I am very thankful to the Seniors Liberal Commission for inviting me to speak today in place of my colleague Kamal Khera.
Your ideas, fundraising efforts and volunteer support have been critical to the Liberal Party’s success over the years. Thank you for all that you do to help us achieve important wins for Canadians, during and between elections. We could not do this without you. It’s our continued work, together, that will help improve the lives of seniors in Canada.
I think we can all agree that the last two years have been tough for us all, but particularly for seniors who faced isolation, loneliness, and stress. Many are continuing to worry about how we will get through this.
Throughout the pandemic, our government stepped up to support seniors at home and in long-term care homes. Canada successfully pulled off one of the largest and most successful immunization campaigns in our history, saving many lives in the process. We know that seniors faced unique challenges and we moved quickly to ensure they were safe. It is critical that these unique needs are considered not only in our response, but throughout our recovery as well. We will continue to step up to do what it takes to keep Canadians safe—for as long as it takes.
Historically, I am proud that the Liberals were the party that created OAS, the CPP, RRSPs, and the GIS, which serve as the cornerstones in the Canadian retirement system. And, as you know, our Party has continued to make seniors a focus, particularly during this past successful campaign – and have ever since forming government in 2015.
We restored the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 67 to 65. We increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement for nearly 900,000 low-income, single seniors. We also increased the Old Age Security for seniors 75 and over by 10% in addition to providing one-time payments worth over $1500 to a low-income couple, tax-free during the pandemic. These policies, as well as investing an additional $6 billion dollars in home care and community care, are just some of the steps we have taken to make life more affordable for seniors.
I am proud to say that Budget 2022 provided further good news for seniors that will build on these key investments. Firstly, our government will make a historic investment of $5.3 billion for a Dental Care for Canadians program, meaning seniors aged 65 and up with an income below $90,000 will be able to access it.
Many seniors have become more engaged in their communities because of the success of the New Horizons for Seniors program, so we’re investing an additional $20 million to help expand programming.
Ensuring seniors are able to stay in their own homes for as long possible is a priority for our government. So, we are creating an expert panel to study the idea of an Aging at Home Benefit and we are doubling the qualifying expense limit of the Home Accessibility Tax Credit to $20,000. These are just some of the steps we will take to ensure seniors can age in place or wherever they choose.
And, finally, many have called Budget 2022 the housing budget, and I think they might be right. I am incredibly excited for the transformative housing policies we will put in place that will build on our $70+ billion National Housing Strategy.
We are providing $1.5 billion to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative, creating at least 6,000 new affordable housing units, including for seniors.
We will also invest $475 million to provide a one-time, $500 payment to those, including seniors, facing housing affordability challenges. A new Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax credit will provide a $7,500 rebate to renovate a secondary suite for a senior or an adult with a disability.
I cannot wait to see the impact of these policies on the lives of Canadian seniors. This is a big deal.
You know, as well as I do, that the work we, as Liberals, are doing for seniors is making a lasting difference for their health, safety, financial security, and social well-being. We have made a lot of progress in only a few short years. But, there is always more we can do.
That’s why this movement is so important. We know seniors—especially those with the greatest needs—weren’t a priority under the last government. We have really strong momentum and a bright future for seniors across Canada so let’s keep this work going.
My colleague Kamal Khera is the perfect person to lead us on this file. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic she volunteered, as a nurse, at a hard-hit long-term care facility and administered vaccines to Canadians. She had an up-close view on the impacts of the pandemic on our seniors. She is committed to righting these wrongs and fighting for the well-being of Canadian seniors, I am very glad to be working with her.
As Liberals, I think we can be immensely proud of the progress we have made in supporting our seniors. We want to build on this work. We have an ambitious agenda for seniors over the upcoming years and much of that is thanks to all of you.
The Seniors Liberal Commission can continue to help our government with this important work. We need you. We need your ideas, your experience, your expertise and we need you to help us engage even more seniors across Canada into our party.
Canada’s seniors can always rely on Liberals to listen, understand their needs and work hard to deliver for them.
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me this evening. I look forward to hearing more from you all on how we can work together on behalf of Canadian Seniors.