Dire choices confront Government in support of elders
Its an election year for at least two levels of government; Provincial and Municipal! The timing is perfect for a public dialogue on the future of all social policy in support of elders. The recent 2016 census profiled stark realities confronting governments in our rapidly aging society. In times past, when our demographics radically shifted, our Federal and Provincial governments responded with tangible, appropriate action and support. In the baby boom era more schools, hospitals and community parks were erected and baby bonuses were established. Well, that same level of demographic phenomenon is occurring right now and right under our noses but it is Canada’s proportion of senior citizens that are ballooning not babies. For the first time in history there are more seniors than there are children in our population. The percentage of those working, of all ages above 15 and below 65 is shrinking while those above age 65 are growing every day. Simply put, less people working will reduce our historical rates of economic growth. Health care costs are expected to rise 57% by 2045. It costs OHIP a lot to support people in their first year of life and in their years post, aged 65.
Existing Federal government income transfer payments to the provinces that support elder services are expected to grow by 47% in that same period. When increases to OHIP and publicly funded, income support programs like OAS are combined, that’s over a 107 billion dollar increase above existing government expenditures. Where is this added, needed public money going to come from? This phenomenon will not occur in the distant future, it is occurring right now and it will continue for the next 27 years! While gender identity, gender equity and the re-enrolling of previous Taliban fighters are being force fed to Canadians as top government priorities, an issue of far greater breadth and depth (at least economically) is not nearly being spoken to. Alarming isn’t it!?
And what is the response by our governments at a time when they should be re-tooling public policies and services in support of a stronger economy (and that helps everyone of any age) to aid a rapidly aging society; the aged and those caring for them? Good question! Instead of incenting businesses to grow their labour force and transform their value propositions in order to gain a greater wallet share of the global economy, they enact policies that hand-cuff business owners that results in them shedding labour, bricks and mortar and any other variable cost that they can in order to simply stay in business amid rising electricity, labour and income tax costs. Instead of building more long term and palliative care facilities, senior themed community centres and parks, hospitals and elder care income support programs, they grow alarmingly large and continuous deficits; an anchor to our economic prosperity and they expand services in areas of our economy that are not growing. It is really too bad that it isn’t also a Federal election year too! Things there are really a mess. The lack of publicly adjudicated fiscal prudence, coast to coast is alarming, raising serious concern about the ability of government to attend to the future economic headwinds that are facing us all, especially amid Canada’s rapidly aging population. Let’s remember this election, to challenge all political parties, leaders and their representatives to a higher standard of transparency, issue relevance and actual action on the issues that impact us most and especially on re-tooling to better support a rapidly aging society; an issue that has never before been as comprehensively important and impactful to Canadians.