MPs back Bloc motion to boost seniors benefits in upcoming budget

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The House of Commons has adopted a motion calling on the government to include a $110-per-month boost to old age security (OAS) benefits in the upcoming federal budget.

In a 183-147 vote held Monday afternoon, the Bloc Québécois motion was supported by Bloc, NDP and Conservative MPs, however Liberals voted against it.

The motion, sponsored by MP Andréanne Larouche, is also calling on the government to acknowledge three points: that seniors were the demographic most directly affected by the pandemic, that “too many” seniors live in financially precarious situations and the “collective debt that we owe to those who built Quebec and Canada.”

It’s a non-binding motion — meaning the government isn’t obliged to act on it — however boosting seniors’ financial relief has been a Liberal promise since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2019 re-election campaign and was also a part of the 2020 fall economic statement.

The OAS maximum monthly amount is currently set at $615.37 for those 65 and older. The federal government estimates there are currently 6.7 million seniors who are eligible for the pension.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of seniors’ advocacy organization CanAge, explains financial help for seniors is much needed since the pandemic has caused the oldest Canadians to pay premiums for grocery and medication deliveries.

“This government has been promising to support older adults with financial relief. What we have seen is a one-time payment that took months to come and promises after promises to really address the issue of seniors’ poverty,” Tamblyn Watts said.

In summer 2020, the feds gave seniors a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $500. Seniors eligible for the OAS pension received $300, while an additional $200 was sent to those eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). For CanAge, that’s nowhere near enough.

CanAge was invited to consult with the feds on their upcoming budget, and among CanAge’s asks is a COVID-19 tax credit for seniors that would see $500-per-person or $800-per-couple refundable tax credits to offset increased costs for deliveries, transportation and support services for seniors during COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Larouche is concerned for the post-pandemic era.

“This is a period of rising costs, and that will continue after the (COVID-19) crisis,” Larouche said during question period in May 2020. “The assistance that is being offered right now is a good thing, but after the crisis, the needs will remain.”

It’s still unclear when the federal budget will be unveiled.

The Liberals have ruled out a March budget due to the pandemic, as first reported by the Globe and Mail, meaning that more than two years will pass since the last budget.

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