03/03/2015 07:21 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT

Seniors' discounts should be scrapped, study suggests

A new report is calling on municipal governments to scrap seniors' discounts.

The study, called No Seniors' Specials: Financing Municipal Services in Aging Communities, was commissioned by the national think-tank Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Many municipalities in Canada give discounts to seniors based solely on their age.

Those discounts for citizens aged 55 or older include lower bus fares, cheaper fitness classes and sometimes reduced property taxes.

Harry Kitchen, the report's author, says a lot of the seniors' discounts offered by municipalities are unfair because most seniors don't need them.

"A lot of these discounts and special programs were introduced back in the 1960s, 1970s when a vast percentage of the seniors were poor," said the professor emeritus in the department of economics at Ontario's Trent University.

"Forward that through to 2008 [to] 2010, the percentage of poor in the seniors groups is smaller than any other age group in the country."

Kitchen has no problem with private businesses offering seniors' discounts, such as cheaper restaurant meals or movies.

But he says municipalities giving a break to seniors are creating a situation where poorer younger people are subsidizing wealthier seniors.

"As soon as you start offering a discount, or a perk, based on age, you're inevitably going to be subsidizing some rich people, aren't you?" he said.

Kitchen says a common objection to his study's findings is that seniors are owed some help after spending their lifetimes working and paying taxes.

He refutes that argument, pointing out that the money paid to cities in user fees and property taxes is used to pay for services available to those people that year.

"Why should you ask someone else to pay for a service that you're currently using?" he asked.

Kitchen says income transfer programs are a better way for cities to help poor people, regardless of their age.