St. John’s is a good place to start the process of taking our Advocacy message on the road and getting feedback from CARP chapter members. And it sure doesn’t hurt when our chapter chair is on a first name basis with Ministers of the government and mayors.
The Avalon (St. John’s) Chapter, launched 16 years ago, is one of our first chapters if not the first chapter and Chapter chair, Edgar Williams, has worked tirelessly to keep CARP advocacy issues front and centre in Newfoundland.
Here in the National office, we try to identify some national advocacy issues that apply across the country but it is important to identify and press local priorities as well. So the original purpose of CARP Advocacy attaching itself to this stop on CARP president, Moses Znaimer’s cross country tour was to get feedback on our issues and find allies for our work.
In addition to getting a mountain of local input on our issues as well examples of best practices from people who have long been engaged in making life better for people as we age, the warm reception from public officials was very encouraging. How can you miss if the chapter chair introduces you to Jerome [meaning the Minister of Finance, Jerome Kennedy] who came knocking on his door at election time, and to Jack, his EA who appears to have gone to the same university, or to Dennis [meaning Mayor Dennis O’Keefe who insisted I sit in his Mayor’s Chair in the Council Chamber]?
I found the Finance Minister very receptive to CARP’s advocacy for pension reform and he challenged us to find better solutions for seniors living in poverty. Pension reform and a universal pension plan will not do enough for the low wage sector since they cannot afford to put enough away for their retirement. Our advocacy for a substantial increase in OAS and GIS is directed at this issue and so far there is little traction at the federal level. Maybe it takes people who are closer to their constituents to make this a priority.
Since Minister Kennedy was also the former Justice Minister, I pitched him on supporting changes to the provincial Human Rights legislation to remove the pension plan exemption that allows mandatory retirement as well as legislated intervention to prevent elder abuse.
Mayor O’Keefe told us how in his family, some aunts looked after him and his siblings in their youth and now the family lends a hand to those aunts. He fully agreed that a city could adopt the same kind of cycle of caring in all of its services – whether in ensuring that people could in fact age safely at home on their own and in good health or in providing a 911-style hotline for elder abuse or shelters. Such initiatives would put a reality on the vision of an age friendly city.
We look forward to meeting local elected representatives at other cities in the months to come and extending our advocacy with the help of the local CARP chapters.