Evidence of meeting #60 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was important.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Mr. Sangha, do you have any thoughts or questions? You have about a minute, sir.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

I have a short question.

First, congratulations to you for initiating motion 106.

Being a senior, I've come across other seniors in Brampton. I visit their facilities. I find that they have health issues. They are not able to reach their doctors properly because of federal-provincial legislation and other problems. Seniors think they are not being provided the help they require with regard to their medication.

What do you suggest to the committee here today? What steps should be taken to facilitate their access to medication, and so that doctors, chiropractors, and others visit them more often?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Be very brief, please.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

I don't have any specific recommendation on medication for seniors. Unfortunately, I can't provide any specific recommendations other than to say that now that we've established the need for a national seniors strategy, let's get the dialogue going, because it is a very important issue. It also falls a bit into what we talked about on the education side. We're looking at family physicians as being very important when you look overall, but also there are nurse practitioners and how those come into play, as well as the education related to that. So it's very important, but I don't have any specific recommendations for your questions.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

Mr. Ruimy, go ahead, please.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you very much, MP Serré, for being here today and for all of your work on this file.

This is obviously a complex issue. Studies have been done in the past, absolutely. We just finished doing our poverty reduction study, and in that, we heard from a wide variety of vulnerable people, including seniors, about some of the challenges that they face. I like to think that some of the elements in budget 2017 are actually due to the witness testimony that we heard. A great example of that is the housing situation, and we have allocated $11 billion over 10 years in budget 2017. It is unprecedented to allocate $11 billion over 10 years to housing. That's for low-income people, for seniors, for shelters. This is unprecedented. So does the suggestion that we're not acting make sense to you, or do you see that we are moving forward on this file?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

As I indicated earlier, we are taking many actions in our budget 2016-17, and the minister will be speaking to the committee and outlining a lot of what we've done in these first two budgets. I would encourage the committee to look at the following budgets. As we indicated earlier, there are elements in play that we could look at to support. If we look at the housing strategy, if we look at home care, if we look at mental...there are a lot of good elements in there right now to look at how we can better improve the quality of life for seniors. More can be done, yes, but we need to have that dialogue to make sure that we have our partners, the provinces, community organizations, and municipalities involved in that dialogue.

June 6th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you.

Before I got elected, I owned a coffee shop-bookstore, and we had lots of community engagement. We had lots of events, and I saw seniors who were 88 years old coming to the shop and getting involved in the discussions we were having and interacting with young people. They were healthier. They were happier. You could see their quality of life. The flip side of that was that I saw a lot of seniors who, for whatever reasons, wouldn't leave their home. They wouldn't go out and get involved. They would stay home; they would watch TV, if they had cable, and because they weren't engaging with anybody, their health would start to deteriorate, and that's a shame, because the wealth of knowledge that they bring to our country is incredible. So the question I have for you is how do we tap into that and encourage them to get out? What are the pieces that are missing for them to actually get involved in the communities? That's an extremely important aspect of this.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

I totally agree with your comments and I will answer in two ways. One is that when we look at, as we indicated earlier, day programs, it's very crucial that we look at reinforcing and expanding the day program including technology and other activities and looking at transportation for the rural aspect. The other important elements here, as we talked about, are seniors caring for seniors, and caregivers. I would encourage the committee to really look at how we can support caregivers. How can we support family members caring for seniors? There are a multitude of different recommendations along those lines to support financially and in other ways, through tax credits and those kinds of elements, but we have to find a way to look at how we can recognize the importance of caregivers in the strategy and the lives of seniors across Canada today. Caregivers are supporting many—as I indicated, 80%—today. So how can we recognize them? Also when we look at seniors and the value that retired seniors right now are providing on a volunteer basis to many of the homes, the stories are amazing and the commitment and the work, but as a society we're probably not recognizing the caregivers enough, and those could be spouses.

My mom right now is looking after my dad, who was just diagnosed last year with dementia, and her health is not the greatest, but she's taking care of my father. I'm afraid that her health will deteriorate. So how do we look at balancing that and having day programs, and having a break for some of the live-in caregivers like my mom? It's very important to be doing that. I appreciate that, and we have to find ways to make that happen.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you.

Because you mentioned it, yes, there is an unprecedented $6 billion for home care. This is something the federal government has not done, so that's another thing we have taken action on, and it's up to the provinces to make it work.

I want to go quickly into how seniors are very vulnerable for plenty of different reasons, and that's what makes it so complicated. One issue that keeps coming up—and we heard this in our poverty reduction study—is senior abuse. Whether it's in the family home or inside institutions, it's a huge problem.

Are there any thoughts on how a seniors strategy could help to fix this?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Definitely, it's an issue that has come up. It's not something I've heard about on a regular basis, but it has come up as an issue. As I indicated earlier, Lynn McDonald did a study in 2015, just recently, that looked at a large percentage of this abuse.

The recommendation, as I discussed earlier, is how can we look at enhancing the education component: literacy, computers, trying to see the technology? How can we enhance the education via day programs to look at that engagement? For many seniors, the number one issue is isolation. If they don't have large families, they isolate themselves, and then it's an issue. How do we get more of these activities and programs in place to support that? That's what I would be doing.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

Karen Vecchio, you have six minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

Marc, first, I want to clear the record. You noted something about the GIS and the first time there was an increase in it. I know there have been multiple budgets prior to this budget where there have been increases, as well. So, I just want to clear the record on that.

I want to go back to looking at old age security and where the future is going to be. I fully recognize that our seniors need support now. We need palliative care. We need home care. We need a variety of cares for them, but we also need to look into the future.

Last night when I was speaking in the House of Commons regarding Bill C-44, I was talking about the debt servicing we have to do. Back in 2015-16, more than $62 billion was spent on servicing our debt. We know with the current government that there's going to be continuous debt loading on here, so we are going to see an increase, of course, in that $62.8 in 2015-16.

I recognize that there were many concerns about the increase of the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to age 67. That is one thing that your government campaigned on and had people believe that this was the best thing. From my own experience, people of this generation thought their old age security was going to be taken away from them, although the changes to it wouldn't have started until 2023. They would still have had an impact on older sister, nonetheless, who is just 55 years of age now.

Let's look at the fact that we have to service all of this debt, spending out over $62.8 billion just in 2015-16. We know that in the future it is speculated that the ratio of seniors to workers is actually going to be two workers for every senior. How are we going to be able to continue to prioritize and have good services for all Canadians—education, health, etc.—without studying the impact of the old age security and looking at reviewing the age eligibility once again?

Is that something that you would consider in this study, knowing that a 2:1 ratio is expected in the next 12 to 15 years, and knowing the enormous debt we'll have in this country? I'm asking for the 46-year-olds of this country, like myself and Wayne.

I'm giving you a call-out there, Wayne. We know you're not 46.

I'm asking for future generations.

When we're looking at this, we have today's generation, but we also have future generations of seniors. What are you willing to do in this study? Are you willing to look increasing the old age security eligibility, knowing that these ratios are also going to be diminishing?

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

First, I'll let the committee members decide on the angle of the study itself. I think you've already looked at some of the parameters.

As for me, I campaigned on this, and then I met seniors, so I feel very comfortable talking to seniors in my riding about the fact that we reduced it from 67 to 65. That's something I'm proud of: our government made a campaign promise and did it. Are you suggesting that we have to find ways...? I can't remember the exact number, but that reduction eliminated many seniors from living in poverty—

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

The problem we had was that there was such a dialogue that was going off on tangents, and what people believed and what was actually happening were two different things. As a constituent assistant for 11 years, I had people coming in and asking when their old age security would be reduced. That was the messaging getting out there.

It was very well done, and bravo to those people who were sending out that negative messaging. However, as I indicated, it was not going to affect anyone until 2023. There was not one single senior at that time who was going to be affected by the changes in the old age security.

That said, I do recognize that for some people it's difficult. If there's 70-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman and they have to look at the allowance and the GIS, there are different things we need to look at there. But the fact is that not one single senior in the 2015-16 election would have been affected by these proposed changes put forward by the former government in 2012.

With the demographic changes that we are going to see, do you think it's necessary to review old age security so that future generations can also have it? We recognize that the debt ratio is going to be an issue, as well as the work ratio. Do you think that's something that should be studied in this as well?

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

The short answer is no. I think it should remain at 65. It was also part of our government's commitment to work with the provinces on enhancing the CPP.

So the short answer is no. I think it should stay at 65.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Do you think old age security will be sustainable when there will be only two employees working for every senior in 2030?

As a 46-year old person, I have 19 years to address my retirement as well. However, we have to understand that this government is piling on debt and more debt. We're not going to have a lot of money left for our priorities. All we're going to be doing is taxing more and more people. That's why I have this question for you.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

My comment on that is—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

You have 30 seconds.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

—that we have to find ways to support our seniors. We have to find ways to support income levels and seniors in retirement.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Future seniors, though.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

We have to find ways to do it, and we have time to plan for it now, so let's do it.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Now over to MP Dhillon, please.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Thank you so much for coming in, MP Serré, and for your motion.

My first question is, how important is it to measure the impact of what we have done before commencing another round of programs, to make sure that the predicted impact is felt by seniors?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

It is very important.

My motion did talk a bit about what we've done. Today we've talked about our two budgets in 2016-17. It's very important. We'll also have Minister Duclos speak further on some of the successes we've already had. To answer your question, it is important to recognize what we've done.

Now let's look at how we move forward. We talked about the human resources committee doing a study, but also the motion. We haven't talked about reforming the National Seniors Council. Right now there are five vacancies, and I encourage Canadians to apply online to be a member of the National Seniors Council. That council will be making recommendations. It will be taking your recommendations from the committee here, but it will also look at engaging professionals, experts all across Canada. It will also be making recommendations to the minister, to all of cabinet, as I indicated earlier, that have a specific portfolio related to seniors. Engaging the National Seniors Council is very important, and acknowledging what we've done. However, moving forward on new initiatives is also very important.