CARP Continues to Tackle Ageism

Don’t get any older. It’s bad for you! You become the butt of jokes, you get blamed for runaway health care spending while being underserved by it, and the one thing you share with the young is being the last hired and first fired. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to take it.

In the last federal election, CARP called on Liberal MP Robert Thibault (West Nova, Nova Scotia) to retract his suggestion that his 60 year old opponent, former Nova Scotia Finance Minister Greg Kerr, was too old for the job.

Mr. Thibault was quoted as saying: “If they wanted to take me out, I would think you’d get someone who’s looking forward to building a political career, not somebody who’s at the age where he’s considering retirement”.

CARP’s retort was widely quoted: “Ageism seems to be the final frontier of acceptable discrimination – imagine if Mr. Thibault had said: ‘He’s too Black for the job’”. We reminded him that he was being short-sighted. Did he not know that 60+ Canadians vote in greater proportions than all other age groups, and in Nova Scotia, the differences are even greater? CARP called on him to immediately retract his remarks and apologize for offending and marginalizing a large part of his voting base – which he did on when we confronted him national radio.

Mr. Thibeault went on to lose that election – who knows if our little two-step made the difference but with only a 500 vote margin in the previous election, it certainly could have. We have to assume that Thibeault did not consciously calculate that he could risk poking his older voters in the eye – it’s just that ageist jokes are part of the wider domain.

John McCain had to live down websites like which listed things he predates like colour TV and Burger King. He had to release his medical records which showed him in robust health – certainly compared to John Kennedy, the youngest president to be elected (at the age of 43) who had to take twelve different types of medication and be injected with six shots of cortisone every day.

Apparently Americans were less ready to elect a 72 year old than they were ready to elect a Black American or woman. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll in 2008, 13% of respondents were less likely to vote for someone who was a woman, 6% less likely to vote for someone who was black but 58% were less likely to vote for someone who was over the age of 70. These statistics are odd, considering that former president Ronald Reagan- he was a month shy of 70 when he took office and a month shy of 78 by the end of his second term -had a 64% approval rating when he left office. This was the second-highest exit approval rating – Bill Clinton left office with 68%.

Seeking to change attitudes is a mug’s game. Calling on an otherwise intelligent radio host to retract his offensive “joke” that he would shove aside a person with a walker who was blocking his way in a plane evacuation drew a windy response from his station manager. For a copy of the letter sent to Bill Carroll, click here, for a copy of the letter we sent to the station manager, click here and for the station manager’s response, click here So CARP will file a formal complaint with the CRTC.