Minister of Seniors, Filomena Tassi, and Stephane Lauzon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, comment on the Government’s actions to make life more affordable for Canada’s seniors during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, Ontario on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Seniors, Filomena Tassi, and Stephane Lauzon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, comment on the Government’s actions to make life more affordable for Canada’s seniors during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, Ontario on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

Internal government documents say that many of the 57,000 seniors the Liberals say they have helped lift out of poverty only moved above the poverty line when the government changed the measure.

Last August, the federal government adopted, for the first time, an official poverty line based on the income needed to afford a basket of household necessities.

Previously, Canada’s main measure of poverty was the ”low-income cut-off,” a different calculation based on how much a person or household spends on necessities relative to others.

A late-November briefing note for Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi said federal boosts to seniors’ benefits appeared to be highly effective “because there was a concentration of seniors with incomes that placed them just above” the low-income threshold, but below the new poverty line.

When the Liberals increased the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) given to low-income seniors, elderly Canadians in that band were no longer deemed to be in poverty.

On Thursday, Tassi said the additional money is making a material difference in the lives of those 57,000 seniors. As for the number itself, Tassi said “that’s what the statistic is.”

“That GIS increase helped 900,000 seniors, put more money in their pockets and the number is that 57,000 were raised out of poverty. Those are the stats and that’s the reality,” she said at a press conference called to draw attention to the government’s efforts.

The same briefing note, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law, also outlined how life could be unaffordable in most of the country under the recently adopted poverty line for low-income seniors reliant on government benefits.

Combined, old-age security payments and the guaranteed income supplement top out around $18,000 a year for single people, which federal officials calculated would push a senior with no income above the national poverty line in just five of the 50 regions into which the government divides the country.

The figure rose to 20 of 50 regions when looking at what benefits can do for a couple with no other income.

Conservative seniors critic Alice Wong said in a statement that the Liberals were “trying to mislead Canadians” about their record in government by “moving the goalposts when it comes to seniors’ poverty.”

On Thursday, the Liberals and Conservatives each tried to paint themselves as the party of choice for seniors heading into this fall’s federal election. Elections Canada research from the 2015 election showed those over age 65 saw the highest turnout rate at the polls of any age group, continuing a trend witnessed in previous votes.

Tassi, who was appointed seniors minister a year ago, argued the Conservatives would undo many of the Liberals’ boosts to benefits and would make life unaffordable for seniors. Wong argued the Liberals have made life too expensive for seniors, which the Conservatives planned to fix, such as by eliminating federal sales tax on home-heating fuels.

The number of Canadian seniors has reached record levels, and their ranks are only expected to grow as more people retire and live longer in retirement — a double-whammy to federal books.

As a result, spending on OAS and GIS is expected to rise to over $100 billion by 2030, and reach almost $250 billion by 2060.

A separate briefing note created in March for the top official at Employment and Social Development Canada, and also obtained under access-to-information law, noted that the demographic change creates “a need to reconsider foundational assumptions around current retirement supports.”

A connected presentation included a slide titled “Incentivizing older workers to stay longer in the labour market,” which noted a skyrocketing number of Canadians working past age 65 over the last decade. Officials blacked out portions of the presentation that provided advice to the government.

Tassi said the Liberals wouldn’t raise the age of eligibility for seniors’ benefits to 67 from 65, as the previous Conservative government proposed, which would keep Canada in the minority of OECD countries not moving in that direction. But she said her party wants to find ways to help Canadians work longer if they want to.

“If seniors want to remain in the workforce, we want to incentivize them to do that. We all benefit when they’re working in the workforce,” she said.

ALSO: 2 teens facing arson charges after 11 ‘little libraries’ lit on fire in Coquitlam

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ridge Meadows RCMP Insp. Wendy Mehat. (Black Press files)
Insp. Mehat officer in charge of Ridge Meadows Detachment

Takes over for Jennifer Hyland, who has gone to new Surrey Police Service

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Staff at Bruce’s Country Market are being asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 after an exposure at the Maple Ridge grocery store. (The News files)
Employee at Maple Ridge grocery store tests positive for COVID-19

All other staff in the department have tested negative for disease

Alouette Heights.
Fire at Alouette Heights in Maple Ridge puts half of residents out of their units

Coast Mental Health said fire was small, but sprinkler system caused damage

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual offences involving a minor in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Most Read