Government’s “more equitable” deal for seniors is really an outrage: MLA Norm Macdonald

By David F. Rooney

The provincial government is trumpeting what it calls “a more equitable rate structure for all residential care clients to reduce the burden on low-income seniors;” the Official Opposition says it’s really smoke and mirrors and, when you think about, “an outrage.”

In a carefully crafted news statement issued Thursday, Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon said that “for the first time in at least a generation, residential care rates will be reduced for the lowest-income clients.”

“Under the new rate structure approximately 25 per cent of clients with the lowest incomes will see a reduction in their rates, resulting in individual annual savings of up to $540 per year, while 75 per cent of clients will pay more,” he said in the statement. “The new rate structure will ensure clients with the lowest incomes continue to pay the lowest rate in Canada.”

He said this “will better protect low-income residential care clients” as it “introduce a new equitable rate structure so a client’s income determines what they pay for residential care. It’s fair and it’s the right thing to do.”

Seniors in a residential-care facility will pay up to 80 per cent of their income toward room and board costs, provided they are left with at least $275 a month to cover personal expenses. The government claims this will give them the highest retained income in the country. Maximum rates will be capped at the full room and board cost for a client — $2,932 a month.

But MLA Norm Macdonald isn’t impressed.

“It’s an outrage,” he said. “You have to cut through the spin to see it. Since when is $22,000 a high income?”

It’s not by any rational standard and that will become very apparent if the Harmonized Sales Tax is rammed through the Legislature, forcing an increase in the cost of living as the seven per cent PST is applied to goods and services that were once PST-exempt.

In fact, Macdonald said fees for room and board in seniors’ homes will increase as much as 29 per cent, which Health Minister Falcon claims is defensible.

“For the Minister, these are just numbers, they don’t mean anything,” the Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA said.  “But for seniors, these increases will have a devastating impact. Seniors in residential-care facilities have already endured a decrease in the level of service they receive.  In some cases, seniors do not even receive one bath a week, and now they will be forced to pay more.

“Seniors in care are among the most vulnerable in our society, and they often have no choice in where they live.  This government is taking advantage of that vulnerability with a rate increase that is simply outrageous.”

Macdonald said seniors in the riding should not be bamboozled by the claims they stand to benefit.

“You can see the spin they’re putting on this,” he said. “It’s an outrage and I think there has to be a strong reaction to it.”

Here is, according to the government’s news release, a comparison between the old rate and the new one:

Before-tax income

Old monthly rate

New monthly rate














Note: Examples only, based on end of year two for existing clients with increases (individuals with decreases will see the full reduction in the first year) – individual circumstances, tax credits, taxes paid and rates will vary.

Provincial comparison

ProvinceDaily client rateMinimum retained income
British Columbia*$29.40 – $96.40$275/month
Alberta$44.50 – $54.25$265/month
Saskatchewan$32.73 – $62.20$188/month
MAN$30.60 – $71.80$271/month
ONT$53.07 – $71.07$119/month
QUE$33.77  – $54.36$188/month

*Reflects B.C.’s new rate effective January 2010

While individual situations, tax credits and taxes paid will vary, examples of rate-change impacts for existing clients include:

  • If Margaret had a before-tax income of $14,034, she will actually see her rate decrease by approximately $45 a month or $540 a year, leaving her with $275 each month to spend on personal expenses.
  • If Bob had a before-tax income of $22,000, he can expect to pay a monthly increase of around $81 the first year, increasing to roughly $163 the second year, if his income remains the same, and maintain around $348 each month to spend on personal expenses.
  • If Alice had a before-tax income of $30,000, her monthly rate will increase by approximately $82 the first year and $164 the second, if her income remains the same, which will leave her with $454 each month after the second year increase in year two to spend on personal expenses.

British Columbia is one of three provinces offering income-tested residential care rates. The other provinces offer a single flat daily rate.

There are 432 publicly subsidized facilities by health authority:

  • Interior Health: 127
  • Fraser Health: 110
  • Vancouver Coastal Health: 77
  • Vancouver Island Health: 79
  • Northern Health: 39