Trudeau promises more financial supports for seniors — but no independent accounting

Trudeau promises more financial supports for seniors — but no independent accounting

The Liberals are offering new financial supports for seniors — but no independent analysis of how much they would cost Canadians.

During a campaign event in Fredericton, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that a re-elected government led by him would provide a 10 per cent boost to Old Age Security (OAS) at age 75 and a 25 per cent increase to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for widows.

According to the Liberal Party, the OAS increase would give Canadians aged 75 and older an extra $729 each year and lift 20,000 seniors out of poverty.

The increase would take effect in July 2020 and would be indexed to keep up with inflation. The full value of the benefit would be received by every senior who makes less than $77,580 today.

Widows or widowers would receive up to $2,080 in additional benefits every year with the increased survivor's benefit under the CPP and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

Asked if Canadians would be required to pay higher premiums to pay for the increase, Trudeau did not provide a clear answer.

"That's a conversation that we're going to be having with the provinces," he said.

Trudeau said losing a partner is one of the hardest things to endure, and this added support will help during the period of grief.

"Seniors have built the Canada that we know and love today. And they deserve to enjoy their golden years to the fullest," Trudeau said during a campaign event in Fredericton.

Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, warned that the boost in CPP could come at a big cost.

"CPP premiums are already set to rise by 20 per cent over the next few years. Canadians should be informed of the costs of the new Liberal Party promise to boost survivors' pensions. This could be a big one and cost jobs. Also, seven provinces would need to agree before it goes ahead," Kelly said in a statement to CBC.

One national seniors' advocacy group applauded the measures. The Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) said a survey of its members found 64 per cent were worried about outliving their savings in retirement.

"Seniors poverty is a growing concern. The Liberals' proposed OAS increase would make a real difference to Canada's poorest seniors. And the proposed increase to the CPP survivor benefit is critically important to income security, especially for widowed women," CARP said in a statement.

According to background materials, the Liberal Party estimates the OAS increase would cost $1.63 billion in 2020-21, rising to $2.56 billion in 2023-24.

No independent costing

Costing analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) was not provided.

Trudeau is facing criticism for not providing the independent analysis of Liberal platform commitments, as the Conservatives and NDP have been doing. Today, he said only some parts of the platform would be subjected to the PBO's scrutiny.

"We will be releasing a fully costed, fully responsible platform in the coming weeks, including all the work done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer on specific measures," he said.

The Liberals extended the mandate of the PBO to cost party platforms during election campaigns. The Liberals made a campaign promise in 2015 to "help Canadians make informed decisions during elections" and give Canadians a "credible, non-partisan way to compare each party's fiscal plans."

All requests for PBO cost analysis come from the parties, and the service is not mandatory.

Something to hide?

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau's decision not to release costing with each campaign commitment, as his party has done, shows he has something to hide.

"Obviously the Liberals have a terrible fiscal record that they are ashamed of," Scheer said during a campaign event in Hamilton, Ont. "I believe that's why they're not participating in the very process that they themselves set up."

Asked if the volume of requests has caused any delay or backlog, Sloane Mask, PBO's director of parliamentary relations and planning, told CBC this week the PBO "is meeting the current demand" for requests. The timing of the release of platform costing is up to the parties, she said.

If the PBO is unable to complete a cost estimate, the request and the reason it could not be completed will be published on its website, Mask said.

Speaking about the new election costing mandate this spring, PBO Yves Giroux said the initiative will give political parties more certainty and boost their credibility.

"But the main advantage will be for Canadians. Canadians will have enhanced reassurance that there is a non-partisan and professional organization that provides cost estimates for political parties' engagements," he said.

'Pretty words'

The NDP criticized Trudeau's track record on seniors' issues, pointing to thousands of retirees whose pensions were cut due to a lack of protections after Sears Canada's bankruptcy, and those seniors now without dental care and prescription coverage.

"At election time, Justin Trudeau gives us some pretty words but then gives tax breaks to the rich instead of doing the right thing for people. We'll protect pensions and take action on prescription drugs and dental care. That's what seniors deserve," said a statement from the NDP.

The Conservatives said Liberal policies have made life less affordable for seniors, citing the carbon tax and the cancellation of the transit tax credit. Scheer is promising to help seniors by introducing a universal tax cut, cancelling the carbon tax and removing the GST from home heating.

"Justin Trudeau cannot be trusted to deliver for Canadian seniors. In 2015, Trudeau promised seniors he would create a seniors price index but he did nothing for four years and abandoned that plan. Now that he needs your vote, he's making even more promises that he won't keep," said a statement from the Conservative Party.