Kingston mulls ending seniors' discounts
Seniors below low income cutoff will still pay less for programs, services
Seniors' discounts are one of the perks of getting older, saving recipients money at shops, restaurants, movie theatres and banks, and on public transit.
Now Kingston, Ont., is looking at doing away with age-based discounts on municipal programs and services, and replacing them with discounts based on income level.
There are quite a number of seniors that are doing well, and there are still some living in poverty, and those seniors will continue to get a discount when we make the change.- Cheryl Hitchen, City of Kingston
Cheryl Hitchen, Kingston's manager of social policy and strategic development, told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning Monday that based on census data, seniors aren't the local demographic most in need of a financial boost.
"[Seniors'] average median income is about the same as it is for the community as a whole," Hitchen said. "There are quite a number of seniors that are doing well, and there are still some living in poverty, and those seniors will continue to get a discount when we make the change."
Discount unchanged in decades
Hitchen said the seniors' discount is an outdated extra that hasn't been looked at in decades.
"Back in the 50s and 60s we started to give seniors discounts in most communities across the province and across the country because there was a very high percentage of seniors post-World War II living in poverty, and there were a lot of seniors not living as long as they're living now."
Determining whether someone gets city discounts will be based on the low income measure, or LIM, which changes every year. Single residents would need an annual income below $22,000 to qualify, she said.
It's expected the change will save the city money over time.
"But really, the impetus is to help those most in need," Hitchen said.
The change, if implemented, would affect discounts the city gives on things like bus passes to seniors as well as discounts for adults aged 18-24, Hitchen said.
Kingston is asking for public input on the issue by filling out a survey on adopting income-based discounts. The survey will be on the city's website until Dec. 15.