June 10, 2011 – Advocacy groups are hard-wired to keep asking for more, and sometimes forget to take stock of how much has been achieved. Every major advocacy plank that mattered to CARP members was addressed in the pre-election budget, by every political party during the election campaign and again in this week’s federal budget.
There are measures to address seniors’ poverty, caregiver support, a new retirement savings vehicle, mandatory retirement and sentencing for elder abuse.
Obviously, more can and should be done. But pause for a minute and reflect on how exceptional all of this is. And how important it is that first, you have to have the powers-that-be paying attention to the issues and offering more than lip service.
CARP members were not surprised that seniors’ issues were front and centre during the election, and they overwhelmingly believed that this should have been the case. It is important to remember that it would not have been enough to have seniors voting in droves; electoral clout comes from organizing ourselves to act together, increasing our visibility and articulating our priorities loudly and clearly. In the legislative sessions to come, it will be important to maintain this visibility and to hold the government to its commitments, lest we be used for our votes and forgotten.
Most of the budget is unchanged from the pre-election version. “I think we have to remember that promises are nothing until the ink is dry. A lot of CARP members said in our polls that they voted for a Conservative majority, but it is imperative this government realize that a majority mandate is not a blank cheque,” says Susan Eng, CARP VP of Advocacy.
CARP members care about the economy and sound fiscal management—which is why so many voted for a Conservative majority. The Conservative Government’s success in this election is at least in part attributable to the perception of its leader. CARP members preferred Stephen Harper to other party leaders and perceived him to be honest and trustworthy. On the other hand, a majority of CARP members also believed that all of all the federal leaders, Jack Layton genuinely had the best interests of older Canadians at heart, and a majority of them believed that he would make an acceptable Prime Minister.
The Government would also be wise to note that the election brought in a new Official Opposition—indicating a massive shift in public opinion. Most CARP members preferred the majority of party platform issues related to older Canadians proposed by the NDP (and the Liberals). When asked to compare party platforms for effectiveness in four key areas of interest to older Canadians, CARP members preferred the NDP proposals for health care, support for caregivers and eliminating poverty, while they preferred Liberal proposals for pension reforms.
The fact that the Conservative proposals did not come out on top in any of the key areas of interest to older Canadians means that they will have to work with the other parties if they want to keep this key constituency.