Why Seniors Should Get Discounts
There were two ways to get to the top of the tall observation tower in the big park in Prague. One was a forbidding winding metal staircase with narrow triangular treads. The other was a small elevator.
The staircase was free.
The fees for the elevator were posted at the cashier.
Surprisingly, there was no discount for seniors, something widely available in Europe.
But when we went to pay, the cashier waved us away. Seniors could use the elevator for free, even though that information wasn’t posted. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” she said.
It should be just as obvious that Canadian seniors ought to continue to get discounts.
Sure, you can make the argument that millenials struggling to get a foothold and families struggling to raise children and pay mortgages also ought to get a break.
But that’s an “also” – not an “instead of.” No doubt about it – everybody could use a break.
There’s a special problem for seniors who are immigrants and, because Canada is a country of immigrants, it’s a big problem. New Canadians, especially parents sponsored by their adult children, typically have only enough years of work in Canada, if any, to qualify for a fraction of the Canada Pension.
Granted, it’s not all bleak for Canada’s seniors. Some are doing just fine. Some are doing better than fine. Some have villas in Palm Beach and chalets in Whistler.
But, as with every other demographic, the income gap between the top and bottom is great. The last time the gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us was this big in Canada was the 1920s, reports the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
But it’s to no one’s advantage to set up means testing to determine whether seniors should be able to ride the TTC for $2 instead of $3 – or to screen out wealthy seniors from any other discount. A bureaucracy established for means testing would be more costly than the discounts – and stigmatize the poor.
As for seniors discounts offered by retailers – Shoppers Drug Mart, the Bay, PharmaPlus, etc. – they’re certainly a perk for people who have paid into the system for decades. But above all, they’re a marketing tool more than a subsidy, and retailers are free to offer whatever coupons, discounts and sales enhance their bottom line.
You can’t bet they wouldn’t be offering seniors discounts if they weren’t profiting from them.