An amount equal to 10% of the corporate tax giveaways announced by the Harper government in its last budget would have ended poverty among seniors in Canada, says the NDP Member of Parliament who has taken up the fight for seniors in the House of Commons.
Irene Mathyssen, MP for London, said a $1.2-billion increase in funding would have raised the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to the level that would have lifted all seniors above the poverty level.
Speaking at CURC’s convention, she said New Democrats proposed the measure in an Opposition Day, where the official opposition sets the subject for debate. “We proposed a measure that would make a positive difference in the lives of seniors who are living in poverty,” she said.
But the Conservative government responded by allocating only $350 million to increased funding for the GIS, while granting an $11.5-billion tax cut for corporations.
“Instead of investing in Canada, the Tories give corporate tax giveaways that will not guarantee a single job,” she said.
Tax breaks for corporations will result in a decrease in government revenue, at the same time as we need to address the revenue issue as more of our population becomes seniors, she said.
“With so many seniors retiring in the years to come, we need a social safety net right now.” It is “absolutely preposterous” that the government refused funding to lift seniors out of poverty, she said.
“Canada needs a national seniors’ policy,” she said. “I made a commitment to Jack Layton at his last caucus meeting that I would fight for my constituents and for all seniors.”
The New Democratic solution is easy and targeted to those who need it most, she said.
“We have an ability to make this happen if we abandon the partisan rheto and reach a solution.
“I am not just disappointed [in the Tory refusal], I am outraged. The Conservatives consistently forget their duty to the people they are supposed to serve. The Conservative agenda is clear. They intend to go full steam ahead with corporate tax giveaways, which they will fund with cutbacks.”
Mathyssen said there was a need for “urgent government action” on seniors. “Seniors simply want access to the programs and services their tax dollars have made possible.”
She said the main step was to double benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, as proposed by the Canadian Labour Congress. She said that was a “far better option than losing on the markets.”
Canada also needs to develop a strategy that helps seniors with their health, shelter and finances. We also need a national pharmaceutical program “so no one has to choose between medicine and food.”
Another important component of a seniors’ strategy would be to change the laws to protect a company’s pensioners first if it went bankrupt.