Cities urged to end seniors discounts

Study argues breaks on property tax and other fees are unfair to lower income people who need help more than wealthy seniors

Harry Kitchen is an economist and municipal finance expert based in Ontario.

A new study urges municipalities to eliminate breaks for seniors on property taxes and fees to use services such as public transit and fitness classes.

The report by Ontario economist and municipal finance expert Harry Kitchen was released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Kitchen argues it’s time to abandon seniors discounts because they increasingly benefit wealthy retirees who don’t need the help.

“They were established at a time when a high percentage of older residents were living in poverty, but poverty rates for seniors have decreased considerably compared with those in the rest of the population,” Kitchen said.

His findings indicate seniors actually have the smallest share of people living in poverty of any age group in Canada.

He recommends grants and special aid be targeted to all low-income people in need, regardless of age.

“Those paying a reduced price are effectively subsidized by those paying the higher price,” Kitchen says in his study.

Cheap or free services to seniors can also lead to excessive use of services and larger-than-required facilities, it says.

Extra revenue from ending blanket discounts for seniors could give cities more flexibility to reduce their reliance on property taxes, he argued.

He warns the inequity of seniors discounts will worsen as the population ages and reform will become increasingly difficult as more voters turn 65.

B.C.’s home owner grant program reduces the property tax on a principle residence by more if the owner is a senior – the tax reduction is up to $845 per year for seniors but is capped at $570 for those under 65.

TransLink charges seniors a $52 for a monthly “concession” pass that’s valid across all zones, while other regular adults are charged $170 a month for a pass that’s good for all zones, or $91 for one zone only.

BC Ferries eliminated a major freebie for seniors a year ago – free travel on non-holiday weekdays. Seniors now pay half price on their passenger fare Monday to Thursday.

Just Posted

Measles case confirmed within Fraser Health region

One case within Fraser Health is related to the outbreak in three Vancouver schools.

Harrison Festival to share the culture behind the music

Festival director Andy Hillhouse will be talking about nationalism in music, starting March 1

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

Another snowfall warning for Lower Mainland

Another 5-10 cm expected for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast

Harrison to participate in inter-municipal business licence program

Construction companies and related businesses will be able to work across the Fraser Valley in 2020

VIDEO: Wheelchairs teach Agassiz students acceptance through sport

Teacher Donna Gallamore brought wheelchairs to the Kent Elementary for learning and fun

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Most Read