Think twice about campaign promise of seniors’ price index, docs urge Liberals

Think twice about seniors' price index: docs

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government should tread carefully on a Liberal promise to find a new way of making sure elderly benefits keep pace with rising costs, newly released documents suggest.

The idea of a so-called “seniors’ price index” arises from a 2005 Statistics Canada study that showed the cost of goods purchased by older Canadians growing faster than the rate of inflation as captured by the traditional consumer price index.

Currently, increases in seniors’ benefits like old age security are tied to the consumer price index so the benefit doesn’t lose value over time.

In the intervening years, however, the government has spent $45 million to improve the accuracy of the index, including using a larger sample of goods and prices to account for local populations.

Those changes mean the “conclusions of the study with respect to inflation for seniors-only households relative to all households may no longer be valid,” according to a July briefing note to Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the note under the Access to Information Act.

Mathieu Filion, a spokesman for Duclos, said talks are ongoing with Statistics Canada about the proposed measurement for seniors, with more analysis needed to see if the 12-year old study still holds true.

“What matters for this government is to protect the standard of living of senior Canadians. Our seniors deserve a quiet retirement, protected from pressures of the increasing cost of living,” Filion said.

The Liberals first made the promise of a new index during the 2015 election campaign, and referenced it again in their maiden budget last year.

Reaction at the time was harsh. Critics accused the Liberals of making policy that contradicted available evidence, and warned that other segments of the population, such as families and students, would demand similar special treatment.

The 2017 budget tabled last month made no mention of the idea.

It did project an increase in seniors’ benefits — from $48.3 billion this year to $63.7 billion five years from now — because of inflation and a growing number of Canadians eligible for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

Making sure the value of the benefits doesn’t decline as prices rise was a key concern for members of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons ahead of last year’s budget, said Wanda Morris, the association’s vice-president of advocacy.

The existing system, while improved, doesn’t account for variations in elderly spending habits in different parts of the country or at different income levels, or provide any additional help for poor seniors, Morris said.

The growing number of Canadian seniors is expected to put a strain on government finances and services, posing a conundrum for bureaucrats.

Last year, Employment and Social Development Canada officials proposed a crowdsourcing study in order to bring in experts who might provide a new and different perspective on the issues facing seniors.

Crowdsourcing has been found to produce more accurate predictions, as well as forecasting alternative future outcomes, said one briefing note to an ESDC official.

In the end, however, the study never happened; the government decided last spring to convene an expert roundtable instead.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Old timbers grace new Timmy’s

The newest Tim Hortons just outside of Oliver was officially opened Saturday

Penticton Bantam Elks hockey win league title

The Penticton bantam Rec 1 BPO Elks team won the South Central Bantam Recreation Championship

Strong showing for local gymnasts

Local competitors do well in provincials

Okanagan-Similkameen region’s natural beauty subject of photo contest

The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club invites regional amateur photographers to submit their photos

Penticton Vees erase two-goal deficit to defeat Trail

The Vees take Game 1 of the second round of the BCHL playoffs

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Most Read