QUEEN’S PARK – When it was first announced, I was hopeful that the government’s proposed Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit would provide meaningful financial assistance for seniors wanting to make renovations that will allow them to stay in their homes longer.
Last week we learned more about this proposed tax credit, and while I believe there is potential to make it work, significant changes will be needed to ensure it provides the right type of assistance that benefits those with the most serious need.
As proposed, the bill would allow seniors to apply for a 2012 tax credit of 15 per cent (up to a value of $1,500) of the money they spend on eligible modifications to make their home more accessible. Eligible expenses would include entrance ramps, electric stair lifts, bathtub, shower and other mobility-based renovations.
The difficulty is that in order to receive the maximum credit seniors would not only have to spend $10,000 in renovations, but they would have to pay for the cost up front. The obvious shortcoming is that most seniors (and working people alike) would be very hard pressed to find $10,000 or even a fraction thereof to make the eligible renovations, meaning those who actually need the government’s assistance will be left in the cold.
If we look at what other provinces are doing, we see some very good programs that go a long way to help seniors. Quebec, for instance, provides up to $3,500 in financial assistance to seniors for similar renovations to their home. The big difference is that Quebec’s program provides full reimbursements, not a percentage, which enables more seniors to be able to make adaptations, regardless of their income.
While I think more can be done to help seniors and have serious concerns with the bill in its current state, I will support it when it comes up for a vote at second reading. I think it is important to give this bill a chance to be improved at the committee level. If the election has taught us anything, it is that we need to stop ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ by voting down legislation that isn’t perfect and that to get where we want to go, sometimes we get there by taking small steps. Although a small step, I think this is a step in the right direction.
As always, I encourage your feedback on this proposal and encourage you to write or email me with your thoughts on the issue. I look forward to hearing from you .
Sarah Campbell, MPP Kenora-Rainy River