A look at the 2021 Federal and British Columbia Budgets
28 April 2021
By Brett Book
CanAge Policy Advisor
Amidst the third, and arguably most devastating wave of the pandemic, and having waited two years since the previous budget, the announcement of the 2021 federal budget was highly anticipated.
On April 21, 2021, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, delivered Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience. This budget promised to address the COVID-19 recession which has disproportionately affected the lives of low-wage workers, young people, seniors, women, and Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour, with $101.4 billion worth of proposed investments.
The Honourable Minister pronounced that, “This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID-19. It’s about healing the wounds left by the COVID-19 recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days – and decades – to come.”
To determine how this budget impacts the lives of older Canadians, we’ll take a look at some of the proposed investments in three major areas of concern: national standards, aging in place, and elder abuse prevention. We’ll also have a look at some of the highlights of British Columbia’s 2021 provincial budget, which was released a day later.
The federal government has committed to investing $3 billion for long-term care over five years, starting in 2022-23, to support provinces and territories in ensuring national standards are implemented. This investment is a welcome response to growing calls for national standards.
The 2021 budget announcement proposed a much-needed investment of $45 million over two years towards the development of national mental health service standards. To help support this, the government will invest $100 million over three years for people suffering mental health trauma during the pandemic, including seniors.
The federal government is also investing $25 million over five years to create a national framework for diabetes. In 2018, Diabetes Canada recommended a national strategy on the advise of a coalition of experts.
Aging in Place
To help older Canadian’s age in place, the federal government has committed to investing $90 million over three years through the “Age Well at Home” initiative.
The federal government also committed to investing $27.6 million over three years for my65+, a group tax-free savings account offered by the Service Employees International Union of Healthcare workers. Additionally, the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit will now provide 4 weeks, up to a maximum of 42 weeks of coverage.
Another way the government is helping Canadians age in place is by increasing Old Age Security by 10% and providing a one-time $500 payment at age 75.
For those unable to age in place, the government also committed to investing $29.8 million over six years to improve access to palliative care.
Elder Abuse Prevention
To address the scourge of elder abuse across Canada, the federal government has committed to investing $50 million over five years to design and deliver interventions that promote safer relationships. This investment will be supported by the announcement of the intention to increase disaggregated data collection by government agencies. This will help seniors by officially counted and “seen” and allow for thorough and accurate research.
The government has made some noteworthy investments in areas that affect the lives of older Canadians. Unfortunately, as we move into a new budget, the government still hasn’t met their 2019 commitment by distributing any of the $50 million promised towards a National Dementia Strategy. Additionally, the budget lacks fundamental caregiver supports for seniors’ care and specific investments in the Age-Tech sector to support innovation and growth. While there were welcomed changes to OAS, the budget also failed to eradicate mandatory RRIF withdrawals at 70, an area of major concern for older Canadians.
British Columbia – 2021 Budget
On April 20, 2021, the Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance, delivered British Columbia’s budget. According to the Honourable Minister, “We know a recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on the things that matter most to people, we can ensure there are better days ahead for everyone.”
In the 2021 budget, British Columbia has committed to investing $12 million for remote home health monitoring, $68 million over three years for additional home care aides, and up to 1500 new and 2850 replacement long-term care beds in health-authority owned facilities.
The government of British Columbia has also committed to helping approximately 80,000 seniors by increasing the Senior’s Supplement for the first time ever with a $50 boost per person.
There are also investments that provide home renovation credits for seniors and people with disabilities and the comfort allowance for seniors on income assistance will be increased by $20 per month.
While there is applause for increasing the Senior’s Supplement and providing support to older British Columbians aging at home, the budget falls short on funding and access to adult vaccinations, including flu-shots designated for seniors (especially in long-term care). Advocates lament that B.C.’s budget also lacks a substantive investment in long-term care and assisted living, investment in dementia and cognitive impairment, caregiver tax credits or supports, investment in programs to curb loneliness and social isolation, investment in preventing elder abuse and neglect, justice system and legal aid supports for seniors, and preventative health programs for older British Columbia.
Can Age is Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization. Their mission is to advance the rights and wellbeing of Canadians as we age.
Find out more at Canage.ca
 The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released a discussion paper on standards in long-term care in December, 2020; also, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) adopted a resolution in February of 2021 calling for the Improvement of Long-term Care in Canada