TORONTO - This week, Ottawa unveiled the Federal Budget 2021: a total of $101 Billion in new spending. Its aim is to stimulate the economy and to ensure a robust and “green” recovery, post-pandemic. The main focus, however, is geared to supporting Canadians in the fight against Covid-19. In an interview with the Corriere Canadese, the Honourable Deb Schulte, MP for King-Vaughan and Minister for Seniors said Canadians will probably call this a People’s Budget.
Minister Schulte, does this Budget reflect a systematic approach to problem-solving when it comes to Canadians and Seniors in particular?
“It is a practical one. When it comes to seniors and supports for health care, the government is pledging $3B over five years. This is new funding that follows earlier commitments of up to $1B for a Safe Long- Term Care Fund".
How does the Federal Government propose to address the issues within the long-term care (LTC) system? In the first wave of the pandemic, about 80% of Covid-related deaths were residents in LTC facilities.
“The Government acknowledges there are difficulties with LTC. This Budget proposes to direct funds, starting in 2022-2023 through Health Canada to support provinces and territories in ensuring that standards for LTC are applied and permanent changes are made".
I am sure you would agree that Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted seniors, whether in or out of LTC. How does the Government address the needs of those outside LTC facilities?
“This is a great budget for seniors. We recognize as seniors age, many have rising health care costs, require more support and some may become widowed. These all have impacts on their income and many are running out of their savings. Seniors are valued members of society. It is crucial that the right supports are available to help them so they may age with confidence, respect and dignity".
What kind of supports is the Government proposing?
“In recognition of the additional economic challenges seniors face, the Budget proposes a 10% increase to Old Age Security (OAS) for seniors aged 75 and over, to be implemented as of July 2022. This measure applies to nearly 3.3 million seniors across Canada. The Budget also includes a one-time OAS payment of $500 in August of this year, paid to those who qualify (75+)".
But you also have something you call “Age Well at Home”. How does that benefit seniors?
“This is a new and exciting initiative. The Budget proposes to invest $90 million over three years to launch the program. It will assist community groups and organizations to develop programs affording seniors the opportunity to stay at home as they age".
How does this program differ from traditional Home Care?
“The program would include practical supports for seniors such as meal preparations, home maintenance, assistance with chores around the home. These are the things not normally supported through home care".
Health care is a provincial jurisdiction. How will the Federal Government ensure these changes are made?
“Change does not come easily. Provincial governments have jurisdiction over health care, including long-term care (LTC). Any change involves several elements including the co-operation with governments, stakeholders, facilities, personnel and Canadians across the nation; I have started to do my part".
Minister Schulte, you seem determined to effect positive change.
“Through the work underway by the Health Standards Organization, Canadian Standards Association and all parties involved, our goal is to improve standards for safety, infection control and the quality of care of seniors in the LTC system..