Let’s Think Bigger, or What’s Our Vision for Canada?

There’s been a lot in the media this week about the federal government’s decision to cut the number of family reunification visas that they will be issuing for parents/grandparents from 16,000 to 11,000. Most of the concern seems to be around the cost to Canada as these people age and receive benefits, specifically:
  • CPP: In order to receive benefits from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a person has to have contributed to the program through payroll taxes. The benefits are calculated based on how long a person has contributed and at what rate, so it is really based on a person’s work experience in Canada. (There are problems with this, of course, such as the role of stay-at-home parents in the system, but that’s for another blog post.)
  • OAS/GIS: Old Age Security (OAS) provides you with a “modest” pension that starts when you turn 65, but you have to live in Canada for 10 years in order to qualify.The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) provides additional income to low income people who already qualify for the OAS (10 years in Canada). The rates for both are dismally low, with a maximum monthly benefit of about $1,200 a month – if you’ve lived in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18. Benefits are reduced for those who’ve lived here less.
  • Other Benefits: There is an Allowance or Allowance for the Survivor for those aged 60-64 whose spouses are collecting or who collected OAS. People receiving this allowance have to be in a low income bracket, have to be a Canadian citizen or legal resident and have to have lived in Canada for 10 years.
Personally, I see this as a bigger story than just numbers (just like I see the secondary suite debate as a bigger debate than parking and neighbourhood density, which is also another blog post). The impact of caring for aging parents on a family is enough of a task; putting legal barriers in the way of family responsibilities just adds to the stress. And it’s not just permanent immigration – trying to bring a family member here for a wedding or celebration has also become an almost impossible task for many immigrants. (If a family member has applied to immigrate, they are not allowed to visit until that claim is dealt with. The current wait for a claim to be resolved is 13 years. What’s happened in the last 13 years that you would have missed?)
As the population of the world ages, this is an issue we’re going to see again and again. As a country, we need to develop better ways of addressing the needs of seniors, their families and the greater communities in which they live.  The debate needs to be bigger than money – it needs to be about values and ethics and how we support each other in creating a better future for all. The vision needs to include how seniors age in community and how we support families as they address the needs of aging parents and grandparents – and it needs to include how we’re going to pay for that support. I’m not immune to the funding debates. I’m just not willing to have them be the only thing guiding my thought process.
(Cross-posted at Witch-Ways, where I’ve been crafting magic on the internet since 1994.)
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