IT SEEMS WE WHO HAVE worked long enough to qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) are going to get a one-time COVID-19 payment. It will come in at a grocery cart shattering $300, or $500 if you also qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).
Times are in fact very tough for some seniors and disingenuous gestures, supposedly saying seniors haven’t been forgotten fails at all levels to solve the problem the way a well-thought-out and long overdue financial support plan would.
The original goal of OAS and CPP has long been forgotten and yet it could have grown into a plan based on the principles of a universal liveable income for seniors.
MP and former Seniors critic for the NDP, Rachel Blaney agrees, saying: “This one-time boost is better than nothing but will not address the ongoing challenges faced by many seniors.” Referring to this one-off crisis benefit, Ms. Blaney states: “Increases like this should be permanent and ongoing to ensure no seniors in this country have to live in poverty.”
An example of the hidden poverty brought about by increased costs for seniors during the pandemic is easily found at the pharmacy.
Before COVID-19, one could get a three-month supply of medication for one dispensing fee. Now because of government and pharmacy concerns over COVID hoarding and shortages – that never materialized — everyone has been restricted to purchasing no more than a 30-day supply at one time.
What once cost $11.25 in dispensing fees for 90 days worth of medication now costs $33.75 in service charges and that is before drug costs and for one prescription only. Doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider many seniors are taking four, five or more different prescriptions a month and that extra dispensing fee for a couple suddenly becomes more than $300.
When you are on a fixed budget and at times having to decide between skipping meals or needed medications, that $338 extra cost can be life threatening.
Yes, the one-time bonus is better than nothing but we shouldn’t be accepting better than nothing as our Canadian motto for the standard of care provided to the 2 million plus senior Canadians whose income is so low that they qualify for the GIS.
We closed our eyes and pretended we didn’t know about the substandard care and warehousing of our low-income seniors in privatized care “homes” until they started dying of COVID in numbers that could no longer be ignored. Let’s not do the same when it comes to providing an income that allows them to be healthy, well fed and able to live with dignity.
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.