11/08/2020 08:00 EST

Ontario's New Seniors' Tax Credit Is Really A Gift To Real Estate Lobby

The Seniors Home Safety Tax Credit was specifically requested by a real estate group.

TORONTO — Ontario’s 2020 budget delivered a number of policies the province’s business lobby had asked for — including one tax credit that the government painted as a gift to seniors

“Since the beginning [of the COVID-19 pandemic], we have promised to be there to help those struggling the most … This starts with giving back to all the seniors who built this province,” Finance Minister Rod Phillips said in a speech to the legislature Thursday.

He said a new tax credit, which offers up to $2,500 back on renovations to adapt homes for senior care, will help aging Ontarians with expensive improvements to make their homes safer. 

“This investment will help tens of thousands of seniors stay in the homes they love, longer … Helping our seniors stay in their homes longer is something we can all support.”

The tax credit was actually requested by the real estate lobby.

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford carries the Ontario 2020 Budget as he arrives in the legislature in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2020.

A seniors’ renovation rebate would create construction jobs, spur home sales and take a chunk out of the underground construction industry, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) said in its pre-budget submission to the government in August.

The association’s CEO is Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative party’s former leader and its submission was written by Mitchell Davidson, a strategist who used to work as Premier Doug Ford’s director of policy.

OREA congratulated the government for taking its suggestions in a statement Thursday. One other measure in the budget came from its submission, the association said: a cut to the Business Education Tax (BET) rate. 

That change will save businesses $450 million a year, OREA said. 

What we saw was a strong focus on long-lead economics to the exclusion of real people at immediate risk.Bill VanGorder

One seniors’ group slammed the budget for not going far enough to support its members immediate needs. 

“What we saw was a strong focus on long-lead economics to the exclusion of real people at immediate risk,” Bill VanGorder, chief policy officer at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), said in a statement. 

“We’ve put forth a strong agenda of shorter term actions that would meaningfully improve the lives of seniors in Ontario and it’s disappointing to see so few of them reflected in this budget.”

CARP was pleased with the tax credit, VanGorder said, but it won’t be sufficient to keep most seniors in their homes.

“Glaringly, the budget lacks a plan to address the province’s lack of accessible home care and community care services, which are vital to allowing seniors to age safely in place.”