By LENNOX FARRELL
Sometimes the greatest challenge you might face is not of unavailable information, but for answers about what already exists. In other words, the challenge includes knowing what is there, how to access it, and determining eligibility. For example, if you or a family member have a disability, do you know that along with other options for students, etc., there is an annual Federal Government grant you can access…before your 60th birthday?
The Registered Disability Savings Plan, Grant and Bond (RDSP) will annually deposit in your account, $3,500 tax free – until you withdraw. In addition, if you do not have the means to make a deposit, there is an annual bond of $1,000 deposited under the same eligibility criteria.
Now, to pose a provocative point – until someone takes ownership organizing it, it won’t get done – in any organization, association or else to which you belong, and/or at your Wednesday night prayer meeting, or the weekend services, has anyone – chairman, board member, pastor, elder, deacon, or other factotum ever raised such public issues with you?
Again, it does not matter what is available; if you do not know of it, or go after it, it does not exist. Therefore, one suggestion is to create a committee, or empower others to scout, scope out and provide relevant info on specific or other types of issues. Ensuring that those responsible have clear guidelines, which include pre-determined times on when to report.
One can also invite speakers, public sector, politicians, academics and other officials with the info you need, to your organization. Ethno-cultural communities that successfully use their political clout, convene these sessions regularly, even holding discussions on the country’s constitution occasionally. The last one I recall in our community like this (1974), on Canada’s Green Paper on Immigration, was chaired by Margaret Gittens, sister-in-law to the late Charley Roach.
And when officials and politicians come, they are briefed in advance of what their responses are expected to endorse. That’s the way it’s done. Politicians and other officials do not visit communities that have clout to use their own talking points. No! They expect you to provide these, in writing. When this occurs, they take you, your issues and your community seriously. They play fair when you are savvy, playing the game. And if you make them a promise, fulfil it. If they do, hold them to theirs…especially at the ballot box.
And what are some of the issues on which your representatives might research and report info?
Social entrepreneurship, scholarships, security pension arrangements between Canada and other Commonwealth countries, etc. Again, info on these issues might as well not exist if you don’t go after them. As my mother put it, “Since God already gave you the tools you need, though He loves you, no matter your prayers, He’ll not go to the toilet for you.”
Until you create these information opportunities, say in a “Share Public Info Committee” (SPIC), here are a few examples of the types of, and contacts for, some provincial information. In another article, the Feds will have their say. Listed below is some provincial info. This is not even a mere look at what is otherwise available, for example, on leasing land; sponsoring family members; accessing solar power; and much more. Determine what you need to find and search where best, making notes. To re-emphasize what you already do and know, when in contact with anyone, or leaving a message, ensure that you get and keep (repeating it for them) names, titles, dates. As you know, when contacting bureaucracies as impersonal as those governmental, no one takes responsibility unless you mutually individualize contact with them.
The info available and useful to you, municipal, provincial, and federal is vast. The following, however, are primarily provincial. There is a provincial ministry exclusive to the questions and needs of seniors: www.seniors.gov.on.ca/en/about/bio_minister.php
The Minister responsible is Mario Sergio, MPP for York West. His Queen’s Park contact number is 416-314-9710. The contact number for his constituency office is 416-743-7272.
From this ministry, you can obtain a document that provides a comprehensive list of answers to pertinent questions: “A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario.” For more information, call 1-888-901-1999 or visit: https://www.publications.serviceontario.ca/pubont/servlet/ecom
Another is the Ontario Seniors Secretariat: www.seniors.gov.on.ca/en/about/contact.php
Among other immediate issues and contacts are programs for seniors about:
- Costs of prescription eye glasses: 416-327-8804 or 1-800-268-6021;
- Costs of dental care: 1-888-340-1001;
- Financial support for assistive devices, e.g., wheelchairs and scooters: 416-327-8804 or 1-800-268-6021;
- Elder abuse, or if you have suspicions that someone is a victim of this, contact your Community Care Access Centre, or provincial number, 1-866-299-1011;
- If you are a low-income senior, there are other financial support programs available in addition to your Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). Visit the Service Canada website for more information, or call: 1-800-277-9914;
- Grants available to assist seniors to repair or renovate their home. For example, the Ontario Government offers a Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit to assist seniors and family members living with them to make homes safer, and more accessible. Up to $10,000 worth of eligible home improvements is available if you qualify. Visit ontario.ca/healthyhomes or call 1-866-668-8297;
- The Ontario Renovates Program offers financial assistance to low-income homeowners and landlords to:
- make necessary repairs to meet acceptable standards;
- increase accessibility, and
- create more affordable housing
- For Home and Vehicle Modification Program, which assists Ontario residents – seniors also – to remain in their homes and have accessible transportation, contact the Ontario March of Dimes at www.marchofdimes.ca/hvmp, or call 1-877-369-4867.
To be continued: Federal Government information and seniors.