The first question the North Island–Powell River federal election candidates faced at last week’s all-candidates meeting at the Campbell River Seniors Centre was on income splitting.
“If elected, will your party continue income splitting for seniors?” was the question, which had been supplied to the candidates in advance.
“An estimated 4.8 million people in Canada are going to see their standard of living go down upon retirement, and I think that’s of significant concern,” said NDP candidate Rachel Blaney, who was selected to be first to respond to the question. “We’re going to make sure that income splitting is definitely there for seniors.”
Blaney then went on to talk about other initiatives her party has planned to address the financial struggles of seniors in our community.
“We’re also really interested in making sure that we pull more seniors out of poverty,” she said. “I’ve been shocked by the number of stories I’ve been told around our riding of seniors now in a place where they’re running the risk of homelessness, and I just don’t think that should happen in Canada. So we’ve also committed to increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), so we can pry about 200,000 seniors out of poverty. I just think it’s our obligation to make sure we’re doing our best for the people who have done their best for us.”
Laura Smith of the Conservative Party began by reminding people that it was her party that originated the policy – and they have no interest in cancelling it.
“Obviously, our government is the government that brought in income splitting for seniors, and it’s what we consider to be a very successful initiative. We thought it was so good we’ve expanded it to families,” Smith told the crowd.
“It’s one of many initiatives we’ve done to help make life more affordable for seniors,” she said, adding that the Conservatives are also committed to increasing the benefit to single seniors who can’t benefit form income splitting.
“What we’re going to do if elected is bring in a new tax initiative that will give a $2,000 benefit to single seniors who can’t benefit from income splitting.”
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff took the opportunity, since the issue was raised, to point out what he thinks is a misunderstanding about the Liberal platform in regards to income splitting and why he thinks that misunderstanding exists.
“I think the only reason this is on the agenda is because of an attack ad the Conservatives made against the Liberals, where they point out, correctly, that we are going to be rolling back income splitting for families, and then it goes on to say, ‘I guess income splitting for seniors is next,’” he said. “That’s when all of a sudden I started hearing at doors – and I’ve been at 13,000 doors – ‘I understand you’re cancelling income splitting for seniors.’ Not true. We are absolutely not cancelling pension income splitting for seniors. In fact, we’ve actually made a number of additions to make pensions better.”
These additions, he said, include keeping retirement age at 65 – a roll-back from the proposed increase to 67 the Conservatives are proposing – increasing the GIS and Old Age Security (OAS) by 10 per cent, and implementing a seniors’ cost of living adjustment.
“As you know, presently, (the GIS and OAS) are adjusted for cost of living, but seniors have different expenditure patterns than families do, and so it makes sense to us that if the cost of living for those things you spend your money on is going up faster, we should adjust that appropriate cost-of-living adjustment to the OAS and GIS,” Schwarzhoff said.
Green Party candidate Brenda Sayers was last to respond the the question, and was brief but clear in her answer.
“We will not be eliminating income splitting for seniors,” Sayers said simply. “However, our plan is to eliminate it for other families, because it doesn’t benefit low income families. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Watch for more on the candidates’ views on issues in upcoming editions of the Mirror.
QUESTIONS?…If you have a question you would like the candidates to address at the upcoming All Candidates Meeting, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A selection of the questions will be put before the candidates at the forum on Thursday Oct. 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tidemark Theatre and is sponsored by the Campbell River Mirror, the Tidemark Theatre and the Chamber of Commerce.