If ever CARP needed effective access to the media, it was in 2012 when the federal government was poised to make a fundamental change to the Old Age Security program and was not brooking any opposition. Luckily, we had already laid the groundwork in our relations with the media. The success of our communications endeavors crystalized when Susan Eng, CARP’s VP of Advocacy, being named one of The Hill Times “Top 100 Lobbyists of 2012” – one of a handful of public interest advocates on the list.
Being prepared is good, early warning is better. Often the first hint of an emerging issue is a call from the media. So it was that in early December 2011, our various sources were telling us that the2government was about make a serious attack on Old Age Security. We decided to ask our members what they thought – right away – in the CARP PollTM. So when the media frenzy hit in January with the Prime Minister’s oblique reference to making retirement security sustainable, CARP was ready with our members’ opinion.
Media like our Polls – Quick, Reliable and Unique. No one else has the ability to consistently poll thousands of people from a bellwether group in such a timely manner. When Prime Minister Harper made his Davos announcement on January 27th, 2012 – we already had polling numbers and feedback. That day and the next, a Canadian Press story ran in all of the major dailies and several dozen local papers all across the country, quoting Susan Eng on the proposed changes:
“We put out a poll to our members when this idea was (rumored) in December and their answer was, ‘No,’ and ‘Hell no’. Remember OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement is only paid to people who need it. We’re still looking at a quarter of a million seniors living in poverty today.”
We didn’t know that the Prime Minister would be making the announcement on that specific day but we were ready when he did and the media knew where to go for rapid response. We were flooded with so many interview requests that we didn’t have the chance to put out our own news release.
We’re nimble as well as quick – changing tack when necessary. The Government decided to bundle the OAS and several other contentious policies into their “Omnibus Budget Implementation Bill”. The reaction of CARP members was swift and clear – this was not how even a majority government should act. There is a legitimate role for the Opposition and the voice of the people they represent. In subsequent polls, it became perfectly clear that the Parliamentary process was as important to CARP members as the substance of the legislative measure. This became the new media message.