Retirement income and health care security: good for retirees, good for Canada
Usually, the federal government starts consultations for the coming year’s budget over the summer, and this year was no different. In June 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance launched the pre-budget consultation process, inviting individuals and organizations to share their priorities for 2017’s federal budget dollars. Specifically, the government is focusing on how Canadians, Canada’s businesses and our communities can maximize their contributions to our collective economic growth. Many advocacy organizations, including Federal Retirees, take part in pre-budget consultations, to advance their members’ concerns, and to help shape budget priorities and Canada’s public policy arena.
In its brief, Federal Retirees focused on measures that would help Canadian seniors maximize their contributions to growth and community – and that means solid retirement income security and an integrated approach to address seniors’ health care needs.
Retirees remain important to the economic well-being of the country, and retirement income security contributes to that. Retirees continue to make significant purchases including cars or new housing; many travel domestically, engage in other recreational pursuits and volunteer (over 1 billion hours by baby boomers and older adults in 2010), all of which are important to Canada’s economy.
In order to continue to contribute, though, retirees need a reliable source or sources of income. Well-managed, disciplined defined benefit plans are the best way of doing that. Research has shown that defined benefit plans make Canada’s retirement income system strong, and contribute to national prosperity.
But for those without defined-benefit pension plans, retirement security is harder than ever to achieve for many Canadians. Pension coverage is on the decline, Canadians’ savings are low, there are serious drawbacks to tools such as RRSPs, and questions remain on CPP expansion. Addressing the inefficiencies and gaps in the retirement savings tools that most Canadians have access to, and creating an environment that supports well-managed, disciplined, defined benefit plans are the best ways of making retirement income secure and ensuring that Canadians can continue to contribute to the country’s economic growth in retirement. This has to be a priority in any plan for Canada’s economic growth.
Just as secure and predictable income in retirement is crucial to retirees continuing to contribute meaningfully to Canada and its economy, so too are other social determinants of health, including access to affordable housing and health care. Seniors’ access to affordable and appropriate housing, age-friendly communities, adequate home care services and gaps in social policies are becoming barriers to seniors’ ability to contribute – not to mention the lost productivity that affects Canada’s economy when family caregivers are overwhelmed.
In budgeting and planning for health care for our aging population while still making our economy go ‘round, Canada needs an integrated, innovative system that takes a long-term view. That means infrastructure investments for accessible, safe, affordable long-term care housing for seniors; investments in and support for age-friendly communities; and a shift toward community-based models of senior care and homecare to deliver care effectively and efficiently, leading to better health outcomes and enabling seniors to continue to live independently in – and to contribute to – their communities.
The perfect opportunity exists to begin to map out how we can achieve exactly that kind of system: in negotiating a new Health Accord between the federal and provincial governments.
Canadian seniors are a diverse, vibrant group; and they are still a force, with a great deal to bring to our communities and economy. Federal Retirees believes our federal government can lead the way in putting the right solutions in place for retirement security and health care to ensure seniors – now and in the future – remain a force.
If we could choose one word to characterize what we believe the 2017 federal budget can be, it’s opportunity: to plan for the future, and to evolve and improve the retirement income and health care systems that have been and remain central to Canada’s economic growth and well-being. And we look forward to representing our members in turning those opportunities into a reality that makes Canada stronger.