Local seniors’ advocates are praising measures in the 2019 federal budget aimed at helping Canada’s elderly.

Haliburton’s CARP chapter said it supports a number of measures to help seniors in this year’s budget, released March 19.

The budget includes a reduction in the threshold for low-income seniors to qualify for a guaranteed income supplement reducing the threshold of low-income working seniors to qualify for a guaranteed income supplement.

“We are also pleased to see some funding for a National Dementia Strategy, increases to the New Horizons for Seniors Program and automatic enrolment in CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) for adults over 70,” local chapter acting president Elaine Schmid said.

This year’s budget also comes with a promise to have high-speed internet in every Canadian home and business by 2030. Schmid said the investments in digital infrastructure will help reduce social isolation for seniors.

“This will be particularly beneficial in our rural setting here in the Highlands,” Schmid said. “Definitely some good things for our membership.”

MP criticizes internet work

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale said he, along with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, has been pushing for action to improve internet coverage for years.

Schmale was critical of the government taking action in the final year of its term, when a plan to fill in the coverage gaps in eastern Ontario has been “on the desk of the minister for two years.”

“Had the government moved forward with EORN’s plan two years ago, we would be in year three of the project already and service would be vastly better,” Schmale said.

Schmale said he hopes the promise means dollars can flow toward making EORN’s plan happen.

“This is something I will be holding the government’s feet to the fire on,” Schmale said. “This is something I will fight tooth and nail for to ensure that EORN’s proposal to start filling in the gaps is taken seriously.”

Schmale was also critical of the budget’s projected $19.8 billion deficit. In the last federal election, the Liberals had said the budget would be balanced in this fiscal year.

“Today’s deficit spending is tomorrow’s tax hikes or service cuts,” Schmale said. “The more spending we do, the more future generations will have to pay this bill.”

More funding for towns

The budget also offers a one-time windfall for municipalities. This year’s federal gas tax fund – which flows to municipalities for infrastructure needs – will be doubled, amounting to $2.2 billion.

“That’s a fantastic measure. It’s something I’ve advocated for quite some time,” Schmale said. “One of the most efficient ways to deliver infrastructure funds is to give the dollars directly to municipalities and not have one municipality fight against another for limited dollars.”

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