Advocacy in action: Good news for the Parkinson community in the 2015 federal budget

There was plenty of good news for the Parkinson community in the 2015 federal budget announced in late April, including support for seniors, caregivers and funding for investigations into aging and brain health, and palliative care. But with all the good news, there are still hurdles to address in the lead up to the federal election this fall and beyond.

The expansion of the country’s Compassionate Care EI benefits from six weeks to six months was a big win for us and our partner organizations, which collectively fought for this change. Parkinson Society Canada specifically made this request in our pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance. We also discussed the need for expanded compassionate care benefits in our meetings with 16 MPs, senators and policy makers during our visit to Ottawa on March 31st, to launch Parkinson Awareness Month last April.

While we know this is a great step forward for caregiver support, concerns still remain about how accessible this benefit is to members of the Parkinson’s community. Currently, many people with Parkinson’s have difficulty receiving an end-of-life prognosis from their physician, which is a requirement for their caregiver to be eligible for this benefit.

Parkinson Society Canada is looking for members of our community who are willing to share their experiences in attempting to access the Compassionate Care EI benefit. If you, or someone you know, would like to share your story to help us advance this advocacy priority, please contact us at advocacy@parkinson.ca.

Other good news in the budget included the government’s decision to provide up to $42 million over five years, to help establish the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. This research investment may lead to better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments for Canadians affected by Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions. The government is also allocating an additional $14 million over two years for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to evaluate and disseminate data about best practices regarding palliative care services.

Parkinson Society Canada was also pleased to see budget policies aimed at boosting saving mechanisms for seniors, which can help with financial security. The minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) will be reduced, permitting seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings. In addition, the annual contribution limits to Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) will increase from $5,500 to $10,000. This is great news for seniors as neither the income earned in a TFSA, nor withdrawals from it, affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits such as Old Age Security (OAS), the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits and the Goods and Services Tax Credit.

We also welcomed the Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and people with disabilities to help offset some of the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible. The credit is worth up to $1,500 for those spending up to $10,000 on things like wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs and grab bars.

Looking ahead to the 2015 federal election

As we move closer to the 2015 federal election scheduled for October, Parkinson Society Canada (PSC) will continue to present our policy priorities to current MPs and public servants as well as candidates from all parties. And we can use your help.

Elected officials and candidates must pay attention to the opinions of the voters in their riding, especially at election time. You can help move Parkinson’s issues forward during the 2015 election campaign and beyond by becoming a Parkinson’s Ambassador in your riding. Whether you are a person living with Parkinson’s, a caregiver to someone living with the disease, or simply want to help with the cause, you can be a champion in your community by being the voice for Canadians with Parkinson’s!

As a representative of the Parkinson’s community, you will meet with your local MP and candidates to discuss issues impacting the Parkinson’s community, in advance of the 2015 federal election. We will provide you with the training and support you need to ensure that you are fully prepared for the election campaign. If you’d like more information, please contact us at advocacy@parkinson.ca.

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