North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has tabled a bill to prevent seniors from being cut off their pensions for not filing taxes on time.
The NDP Seniors Critic has heard from numerous pensioners who are late with their taxes because of illness, either to themselves or their spouse. Come July, the penalty is a temporary suspension of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).
“Something happens in their life, and they don’t get their taxes in on time,” Blaney said.
The first call her office received came from a woman in her mid-80s who was facing eviction because she wasn’t receiving her GIS, which paid a significant portion of her rent. Blaney’s office managed to have the woman’s GIS re-instated, and assured her landlord the money would be there.
“When I became the Seniors Critic, we were getting calls from all over the country about this issue. What we could see very clearly is 30,000-plus seniors lost their GIS, and by October they were mostly re-instated. For those low-income people, it’s up to four months without their Guaranteed Income Supplement, which can make it very hard to even survive.”
Blaney’s bill aims to give GIS recipients a one-year grace period if unable to file taxes by deadline. It also requires Employment and Social Development Canada employees to reach out to affected seniors to assist them through the process.
“Of course if they continue not doing their taxes, that’s going to be a problem,” Blaney said. “After a year, they will eventually lose it. But this is for the seniors in this country, the vast majority who, for one reason or another, can’t get their taxes in on time. This will help tens of thousands of seniors, keep them out of dire straits in terms of poverty, and give them a little more time to deal with these issues as they face the challenges they face…It’s a very simple solution to a very important issue.”
The next step is to discuss the matter with Seniors Minister Filamena Tassi. Blaney hopes the Liberals will “take this under their wing” and implement her plan.