Prime Minister Paul Martin today unveiled a detailed plan to support Canadian families by improving support for care-givers, Canadians with disabilities and seniors.
“Canadian society is regarded the world over as a model of generosity and inclusiveness,” said the Prime Minister. “It is a long-held Liberal value that government has an important role to play in supporting families, helping Canadians to care for one another in our moments of need and ensuring all Canadians have the opportunity to fully participate in the educational, economic and social life of our communities.”
New Measures to Support Caregivers
A new Liberal government will introduce a new Family Leave Program to allow Canadians caring for a seriously ill loved one to take up to two months away from work without losing their job or benefits..
We will also broaden the current EI Compassionate Care Benefit to include family members other than the currently-specified parent, spouse or child. At the same time, we will work to extend the current benefit to meet the needs of all part-time workers.
Furthermore, to support unpaid care-givers, we will:
- increase the current Caregiver tax credit by a further 50 per cent to $15,000;
- create a new Community Care-giving Canada program, modeled on the successful New Horizons program for seniors, to encourage community-based solutions to care-giving challenges; and
- provide new one-stop tools to help guide caregivers toward and access the best of community resources.
Building Opportunity for Canadians with Disabilities
Prime Minister Martin also announced a detailed plan to provide $500 million in new support to assist Canadians with disabilities.
This plan will include the creation of a Registered Disabilities Savings Plan (RDSP), to give peace of mind to the families of disabled Canadians. It will allow them to make tax-deductible contributions to savings for the benefit of a disabled dependent after a specified period of time, recognizing the modern demographic reality that even severely disabled persons can often expect a long lifetime.
A Liberal government will also invest:
- $150 million over five years for employability assistance programs for Canadians with disabilities under Labour Market Agreements with provinces and territories;
- $50 million over the next 5 years to extend eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit and increase the maximum Child Disability Benefit;
- $65 million over this year and the next 5 years to increase the refundable medical expense supplement to $1000 a year; and,
We will also earmark $135 million from the Post-Secondary Innovation Fund to improve access to post-secondary facilities and programs for Canadians with disabilities.
Improving Quality of Life for Seniors
Canadians are living longer, healthier and more financially secure lives than at any time in our history. One of the challenges for the future is to ensure that seniors are able to share fully in this improved status – and continue to be able to participate actively, fully and with dignity in their community life.
In recent years, reverse mortgages have become a popular tool for seniors on fixed incomes to access a portion of the equity in their home, without making payments until the home is either sold or settled in an estate. However, the commercial institutions offering reverse mortgages frequently charge high rates of interest.
A new Liberal government will introduce legislation to create a Mortgage Equity Access Now for Seniors (MEANS) program, which will allow Canada's growing seniors’ population to access the equity they have in their homes.
We will also help ensure that seniors can remain active in their neighbourhoods and communities through a $50 million investment to expand the New Horizons for Seniors program, which promotes voluntary-sector activities by and in support of seniors.
These measures build on the $2.7-billion increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement included in Budget 2005, which is the largest increase to the GIS in Canadian history and saw the maximum yearly GIS benefits increase by $216 for individuals and $348 for couples starting January 1, 2006. This is putting real money in the hands of low-income seniors.