Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough speaks along with Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr during a federal funding announcement at the Society of Hope complex Wednesday. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna seniors hopefully cautious after federal funding highlighted in Kelowna

Minister Carla Qualtrough highlighted funding for seniors in the federal budget

With the minister of public services making a stop in Kelowna to tout the federal budget’s initiative to address retirement security, some seniors are a little sceptical.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough addressed a crowd of roughly 40 people Wednesday morning, highlighting the budget’s proposals to make retirement easier for seniors who wish to work by enhancing Guaranteed Income Supplement Earnings, boosting benefits for 900,000 low-income seniors and restoring the eligibility age for Old Age Security and GIS benefits to 65.

The federal government also plans to raise the maximum CPP retirement benefit by up to 50 per cent over time.

READ MORE: Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

The government will also be spending $50 million over the next five years in a national dementia strategy.

Dave and Chris McNeilly have lived in the Society of Hope’s Apple Valley complex for the last two years. They moved from the West Coast specifically to live in the complex, which they said has great amenities.

READ MORE: Finance Department predicts federal budget will be balanced by 2040

Dave said there’s a need for more senior complexes like Apple Valley in the community.

“The only thing I can see, they’ve got all this money in the budget for future years, but if they don’t get re-elected, none of that means anything. It’s easy to promise a whole bunch at this time because they don’t necessarily have to follow up on it.”

He said he’s proceeding with hopeful caution.

Executive director Vi Sorenson with Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre, is also concerned about the growing number of seniors that are becoming homeless and said there hasn’t been funding for it.

READ MORE: 2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

“I wish there was more, it’s not making the headway I’d like to see. Senior issues in housing have been unrecognized. There’s been a focus on homelessness, by no means am I arguing that shouldn’t be the case, but somehow in that shuffle (we’re seeing more homeless seniors.) It’s seniors that experience a health crisis, they put them in the hospital, they lose their home, it just starts to fall apart.

There’s also a lack of seniors’ shelters in the Central Okanagan, she said.

“There really is no separate safe place for seniors and I would really love to see that in this town.”

“There isn’t a day goes by that we don’t get a phone call from seniors in a housing crisis. I’ve been with this organization for over 20 years, and I’ve never heard of a homeless senior in the beginning. Now it’s not unusual,” said Sorenson.

READ MORE: Budget responds to long-standing calls for federal strategy to address dementia

Qualtrough said that in the 2019 budget, the focus is on millennials and increasing stock in rental housing, but last year’s budget had billions of dollars dedicated towards seniors housing as part of a national housing strategy.

“It’s not in the budget, but it’s building on what was already announced last year,” she said.

Mary Ng, Minister of Canada’s Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, is also stopping in Kelowna Wednesday to speak with residents about the budget’s building investments when buying a home, attending university making retirement more affordable, but did not announce the date and time.

Canada’s Finance Minister also visited Kelowna last night, speaking to the public at Okanagan College about the nation’s economy.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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