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

A Port Alberni RCMP car blocks access to Anderson Avenue at Burde Street. (RCMP PHOTO)
Replica firearm prompts police incident in Port Alberni

RCMP had blocked off a neighbourhood while searching for ‘man with a gun’

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College to host practical nursing info session

10 seats are open in the Port Alberni region for practical nursing program

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP locate driver and vehicle, but are asking for video footage

Students from AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni write anti-bullying messages and draw colourful chalk art around their school for national anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day, Feb. 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY LISA ARBANAS)
Chalk art brightens public walkway on Pink Shirt Day

Students from AW Neill Elementary in Port Alberni write messages of hope

Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presents plans for a Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural Centre to Port Alberni city council. The structure pictured in this image is the Copenhagen Opera House. (SCREENSHOT)
Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre pitched for Port Alberni

Three possible locations put forward for multi-million-dollar centre

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

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

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read