Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the opportunity of presenting our pre-budget recommendations.
CARP is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization with over 300,000 members across the country with whom we are in constant communication.
Retirement security continues to be a major concern for our members, especially for their children and grandchildren, and now increasingly for themselves. This concern is justified by some troubling statistics and trends, especially if we translate those statistics into the people behind the numbers.
Poverty rates among seniors have stopped improving. Poverty now stands at just under 7%, at 6.7%, leaving nearly a third of a million seniors in poverty today. If the rate of poverty stays the same, then in 2023 there would be nearly half a million seniors living in poverty.
The 680,000 seniors eligible for the much-welcomed GIS top-up in last year's budget are predicted to grow to one million by 2023. Today 1.6 million Canadians receive the GIS, people who by definition are in need of income support, and that number is projected to grow to 2.6 million by 2023.
Women and single seniors have higher rates of poverty. There are twice as many low-income women as men. Single seniors as a group experience twice as much poverty as those in couples. Single women living in poverty outnumber single men by about 30%
The incidence of living alone is increasing with age, and twice as many women over 70 live alone. Women seniors are more likely to face poverty because of lower career earnings. They're less likely to have a workplace pension as they withdrew from the workforce to care for children and now for a spouse or a parent. These numbers are sufficiently appalling that many CARP members have called it a national disgrace.
People are also not saving enough for their own retirement, and that problem is growing: 8.4 million workers do not have a workplace pension. Canadians are using just 5% of their available RRSP room, leaving an estimated $630 billion worth of tax room unused. While the number of eligible taxpayers has increased, fewer actually contributed to RRSPs in 2010 compared to 2009. The proposed pooled registered pension plans are not attractive enough to change this dynamic, but we believe that they can be improved.
Consequently, CARP recommends three major items. First, replace the OAS and GIS that will be lost by the most financially vulnerable seniors as a result of the changes to OAS as the first step to restoring OAS eligibility to age 65; second, support single seniors, with particular regard to older women, with an equivalent to spousal allowance for single seniors in financial need; and third, make the welcomed caregiver tax credit refundable.
We should help people to save for their own retirement. We recommend that we improve the PRPP, notably with a mandatory employer contribution, and recommit to working with the provinces to advance on the promise to enhance the CPP.
CARP is on the record as opposing the changes to the eligibility age for OAS. More than two-thirds of CARP members strongly oppose the change and want us to continue to work to reverse the changes, notwithstanding that most of them will not actually be affected by the change themselves. They see it as an earned benefit they paid for in their taxes and they want it to help the worst off. They also want to protect this important part of the social safety net for their children and grandchildren.
The government has acknowledged the need to protect those who cannot wait the two extra years for their OAS and GIS—and the GIS is dependent on being eligible for OAS—and among other things has committed to reimbursing the provinces, which are called upon to make up the difference. It is this category of seniors that the government sought to assist with last year's very welcomed GIS top-up and the same people who will be most at risk of having to wait the extra two years.
Now there are discussions with a few of the provinces, and it appears that they have no plans to bridge this gap, either with a special program or by just letting needy seniors apply for welfare. In fact, some of them would have to change their program to let seniors apply, which still carries enough stigma that many who need it will not apply.
Given that the government has already acknowledged the need to look after this category of people and has already committed to reimbursing any provincial programs that come to pass, we are recommending that the government now commit to funding this gap to relieve the anxiety of the most vulnerable.
For single seniors, an equivalent to spouse allowance is something that we have recommended.
Finally, the PRPPs, as presently constructed, are inadequate to fill the gap for retirement security.
Thank you very much.