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A new study suggests withdrawing senior discounts at the city level

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A provocative study released by the Institute of Research on Public Policy suggests Canadian cities should do away with property tax and user fee discounts for seniors.

Harry Kitchen, professor emeritus with Trent University, contends discounts were introduced at a time when seniors were living in poverty, but that poverty rates among the elderly have decreased.

He says discounts should be spread more evenly across all low-income individuals.

And he argues the fees people pay to use civic facilities are too low which leads to the over-use and the construction of larger-than-required public amenities.

Sav Dhaliwal, president of the Union of BC Municipalities, acknowledges cities are struggling to pay for services, but he also sympathises with the elderly.

“I think the majority of seniors continue to live under modest means. They want to hang onto their homes as long as they can, but property taxes keep going up and up,” he says, which is why he believes the province should offer more homeowner grants because fewer seniors are qualifying for them.

And Dhaliwal doesn’t believe cities are over-providing for their citizens.

“Facilities are barely servicing their citizens. I’m thinking about recreational facilities and libraries. The other levels of government have not done their fair share of funding infrastructure.”

He says at the very least the study highlights what kind of pressure cities are in, having to provide the usual infrastructure, recreational facilities and, increasingly, social services with limited means to pay for them.

Kitchen points out as the seniors’ population grows, it will become more difficult for local government to introduce the changes necessary and to provide and finance the services their aging communities need.