Round #5 of the 2015 Cariboo – Prince George discussion with our local candidates! As before, replies are presented in the order in which they were received.
Question 1 – If you are elected, how will you help seniors financially? Many seniors are on fixed incomes, and while the cost of housing and health needs (e.g. non-prescription medications) increase each year, the Old Age Pension doesn’t increase enough to offset those costs. This means that many seniors have a poorer quality of life rather than enjoying their retirement years in comfort.
Tracy Calogheros – Our elders deserve to retire knowing that they will be able to enjoy their golden years. They have worked hard and paid into our social safety net for their whole lives. Thanks largely to inaccurate advertising by the Conservatives, there is a broad misconception that the Liberals will do away with income splitting for seniors; this is irresponsible fear mongering and is completely false. Income splitting for seniors will NOT be removed.
The cost of items that seniors purchase is rising at a different rate than the consumer price index (CPI). The Liberals have done the research and have developed a new scale, the Seniors Price Index (SPI), to which the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will be tied. In a year where the CPI grows faster than the SPI, the indexing of payments will be to the CPI. The retirement age will be returned to 65 instead of 67, and there will be an immediate increase of 10% (approximately $940/yr) for our most vulnerable seniors living on their own at a low income level. Pharmacare is another commitment that I believe in wholeheartedly; a more complex program, this will require discussion and partnerships with the Provinces, and as such will take a little time to get right. Pharmacare will be of immense benefit to all Canadians, but particularly to seniors, living on a fixed income. With infrastructure investments targeting seniors housing and facilities, all senior citizens will be able to retire with dignity. I value the role that elders play in our communities and in our families, we need to ensure that they are able to live long, healthy lives with the best care available.
Todd Doherty – Our party has actually announced several programs in Economic Action Plan 2015 and over the course of the election campaign.
In the last budget, we announced funding for a Home Accessibility Tax Credit, which provides seniors and families with a tax break to renovate their home, making it more accessible. Our enhanced Tax Free Savings Accounts program also benefit seniors by allowing them to deposit their RRSP funds into TFSA’s, allowing them to collect tax-free interest on those funds. TFSA’s aren’t just good for those saving for retirement, they’re also good for those preparing to retire.
We’ve also improved the rules for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs, which RRSPs convert into), allowing seniors to preserve their retirement savings for longer. Additionally, we increased the Age Credit amount by $2,000, providing $1,055 in annual tax relief for eligible seniors.
Because of our government’s measures, we’ve completely removed roughly 400,000 seniors from the tax roll.
We’re adding to this commitment with a Single Senior’s Tax Credit, which exempts up to $2,000 of their pension income from income tax. They would also be able to combine this with the Pension Income Credit, which would shield an additional $4,000 from taxation, providing similar benefits as Income Splitting for Seniors.
Additional measures that our government has taken to help seniors on fixed incomes can be found at the following link: http://www.conservative.ca/harper-announces-new-support-for-canadian-seniors-2/
Sheldon Clare – Seniors are best served by the introduction of sustainable benefit plans that meet the needs of the people affected and yet limit the burden on taxpayers. I am prepared to work with any party that works to alleviate the dire circumstances of seniors in a fiscally responsible way. This would include effort to ensure that the cost of prescription drugs is fair and reasonable.
Adam De Kroon – One way I think we can really help seniors financially is by making low-cost housing (including apartments) available for them to rent. Especially in urban areas, where rent is very expensive, just paying rent alone can take almost all of a seniors income. Affordable housing for seniors is one of the biggest ways we can help seniors financially. Also reduced property tax for seniors would be a benefit. A CHP government would also give $1000 per month to a family where one spouse stayed home to care for an elderly relative. It is much better for seniors to be among family rather than being cared for by strangers.
Question 2 – What are your beliefs about the role of First Nations in our country (politically, culturally, economically, etc), and what should the relationship be like between the federal government and our First Nations? Related to this, describe what you think multiculturalism should look like in Canada.
Tracy Calogheros – Canada, presently, is greatly diminished by the Harper Government’s treatment of First Nations. This demographic is the fastest growing one in the country and we have been squandering their talents, brain power and wisdom by refusing to recognize them as equal partners. This adversarial approach, leaving the courts to settle disputes, is hurtful, socially damaging and is a massive barrier to economic development for everyone. Many First Nations people are living in conditions that no one in the rest of Canada would find acceptable. First Nations women are subjected to violence at three times the societal norm with their children’s success rates at school sitting at the lowest in the country. It is not only morally wrong to allow it to continue, it is a huge loss to our success as a country. Until we sit at the table together, with a clear set of mutual goals we will not be able to wholly move into the next century. New relationships with First Nations must be forged, nation by nation across the country. Significant, simultaneous investments in education and infrastructure are necessary. We must do this in partnership, as equals. Trust is the foundation of all collaborations and we must work to establish that trust on both sides. I know it is possible, I have done it and have been enriched by the results.
Canada is strong BECAUSE of our differences not in spite of them. We are a welcoming society, the envy of millions who aspire to join us because we celebrate diversity, learn from each other and respect individual rights and freedoms. Multiculturalism is a core part of our values and economy. I know we can step into this 21st Century together, free from the prejudices of the past that have held us back.
Todd Doherty – Our First Nations have always been an important part of our country, and what happened to them during the last century is the greatest challenge we are facing today. Right now, we have to work towards reconciling our tainted history with the present, in order to build for a better tomorrow together.
Our Prime Minister took the two most significant steps on the path to reconciliation: an apology for and recognition of the atrocities of the Residential School System, and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The recommendations of this report are being reviewed before determining the next steps.
These were important steps to take to truly start down the path of reconciliation.
Our ideal relationship with First Nations is one of partnership. We’re the only country with Aboriginal and treaty rights entrenched in our constitution. We also put Aboriginal women on equal footing as the male counterparts, allowing First Nations status to be passed matrilineally. Our government has made significant housing in infrastructure, education and healthcare for First Nations Communities.
One thing we have been criticized for in the past was the First Nations Financial Accountability Act, which required bands and councils to publish their financial reports. However, as shown during the months First Nations began reporting, we noticed two things: most bands and councils had their books in order, but for some there were massive cost discrepancies, with Chiefs and Councillors in those Nations reporting large salaries.
In terms of multiculturalism, Canada is welcoming of people from all backgrounds. That is what makes Canada great! Collectively we are woven together in celebration of our great Canadian way of life and Canadian values, such as respect for individual freedom, democratic government, and equal rights for ALL Canadians.
Sheldon Clare – Many of us have forgotten that there is an overarching statement – what we might call a “mission statement” today – in regards to relations between the First Nations and the Crown. That overarching statement is called the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and in it, the Crown makes it clear that it hopes that First Nations people not only survive, but flourish in the generations after European settlement had begun.
We have already seen what horrors can occur when the Canadian government, on the Crown’s behalf, attempts to force a new way of life on First Nations people – the failures of the racist, outdated Indian Act are well known and documented. Furthermore, even when First Nations bands are given more autonomy, they often lack the internal checks as well as the human capital to keep their governance accountable, a problem which can prevent long term prosperity to their people.
Once again, the critical element is investment in education so that First Nations people build a better standard of living. First Nations have more young people than any other demographic in Canada, yet many of these young people do not know their cultural past, and lack the skills needed to change the cyclical poverty that too often affects aboriginal families.
The Federal government must better allocate resources to assist First Nations people to obtain the education needed to help their communities. This is a tall order, but half measures from the Federal government towards First Nations always result in disaster. The Crown has a duty to help our native peoples maintain their stake in Canada and better access to education is the best way to do that.
Adam De Kroon – No response.