Think twice about campaign promise of seniors’ price index, docs urge Liberals

Think twice about seniors' price index: docs

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government should tread carefully on a Liberal promise to find a new way of making sure elderly benefits keep pace with rising costs, newly released documents suggest.

The idea of a so-called “seniors’ price index” arises from a 2005 Statistics Canada study that showed the cost of goods purchased by older Canadians growing faster than the rate of inflation as captured by the traditional consumer price index.

Currently, increases in seniors’ benefits like old age security are tied to the consumer price index so the benefit doesn’t lose value over time.

In the intervening years, however, the government has spent $45 million to improve the accuracy of the index, including using a larger sample of goods and prices to account for local populations.

Those changes mean the “conclusions of the study with respect to inflation for seniors-only households relative to all households may no longer be valid,” according to a July briefing note to Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the note under the Access to Information Act.

Mathieu Filion, a spokesman for Duclos, said talks are ongoing with Statistics Canada about the proposed measurement for seniors, with more analysis needed to see if the 12-year old study still holds true.

“What matters for this government is to protect the standard of living of senior Canadians. Our seniors deserve a quiet retirement, protected from pressures of the increasing cost of living,” Filion said.

The Liberals first made the promise of a new index during the 2015 election campaign, and referenced it again in their maiden budget last year.

Reaction at the time was harsh. Critics accused the Liberals of making policy that contradicted available evidence, and warned that other segments of the population, such as families and students, would demand similar special treatment.

The 2017 budget tabled last month made no mention of the idea.

It did project an increase in seniors’ benefits — from $48.3 billion this year to $63.7 billion five years from now — because of inflation and a growing number of Canadians eligible for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

Making sure the value of the benefits doesn’t decline as prices rise was a key concern for members of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons ahead of last year’s budget, said Wanda Morris, the association’s vice-president of advocacy.

The existing system, while improved, doesn’t account for variations in elderly spending habits in different parts of the country or at different income levels, or provide any additional help for poor seniors, Morris said.

The growing number of Canadian seniors is expected to put a strain on government finances and services, posing a conundrum for bureaucrats.

Last year, Employment and Social Development Canada officials proposed a crowdsourcing study in order to bring in experts who might provide a new and different perspective on the issues facing seniors.

Crowdsourcing has been found to produce more accurate predictions, as well as forecasting alternative future outcomes, said one briefing note to an ESDC official.

In the end, however, the study never happened; the government decided last spring to convene an expert roundtable instead.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

North Okanagan indigenous student award winners

Scholarship program rewards 457 students across province

Local donations lift college trades facility

George Galbraith and Kal Tire each donate $250,000 to new Okanagan College trades training centre

RCMP seek missing man

Blake Doyle was last seen Dec. 2

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

SilverStar shines

Vernon’s mountain resort lights up for Christmas

Fans litter ice with teddy bears for charity

Annul Vernon Vipers Teddy Bear Toss B.C. Hockey League game

Writing her way to recovery

Shuswap author finds healing and well-being by writing

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Be ladder safe both at work and home

WorkSafeBC wants you to keep safe while hanging those Christmas lights this year

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

North Westside director travels

The Regional District of Central Okanagan board has agreed to Wayne Carson attending conferences

A classic Christmas play with a Kelowna twist

Scrooge is transported to Kelowna in New Vintage Theatre’s new holiday play, opening Wednesday

Crown appeals stay against Jamie Bacon in Surrey Six killings

B.C.’s prosecution service says judge’s decision reveals ‘errors of law’

Most Read