Seniors' votes often taken for granted: CARP

Originally published in Nothern Life on June 4th, 2010. To go to the Northern Life Website please click here

Susan Eng, the vice-president of advocacy at CARP, spoke to an group of seniors at the CARP annual general meeting on June 2. During the meeting, she urged Canada’s retired citizens to hold their politicians accountable to the promises made during election-time.

The common belief that Canada’s senior citizens are set in their ways does not apply to politics, according to Susan Eng.

Eng, the vice-president of advocacy with Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), spoke to about 150 older adults at a general meeting on June 2.

Statistics prove that seniors make up a high percentage of the voting population, Eng explained. At the meeting, not a single senior raised his or her hand when Eng asked if they did not vote.

“I don’t think it’s on account of being embarrassed about not having voted, and lying about it,” she said. “They actually truly are very dedicated voters.”

She said when CARP reminds politicians what a strong voice seniors have, “they start to pay attention…The trouble is, (seniors are) too consistent, and their vote gets taken for granted.”

She said Canada’s eldest citizens deserve to have their voices heard on important political issues, and Eng’s primary message encouraged seniors to hold their local politicians accountable for the promises he or she makes.

“Make sure you hold (politicians) with their feet to the fire,” she said.

She told the audience that if an elected politician doesn’t follow through with his or her promises, it should make them more cautions of where they check the next ballot.

“The politicians live by the stereotype that older people tend to be set in their ways,” she said. “We’re here to tell them they’re wrong. We have the polling results to prove it.”

When CARP polled seniors across the country in April, the majority said they would in fact change their vote, if it meant issues like pension reform would be resolved. The only way to achieve resolutions in political matters like pension reform is through “political consequences,” Eng said.

It would be “wrong to think” that an issue as seemingly small as pension reform can not change the political landscape in the country, she warned.

“The climate has changed,” she said. “People are aware of retirement insecurity…This could be the one true issue that makes the difference.”

Eng encouraged seniors to communicate with CARP when they feel their political representatives aren’t hearing them.

“We are happy to accommodate any local needs you have,” she said. When CARP members band together, they have a strong voice consisting of 800 members in Sudbury and 350,000 nationally.

Eng has plans to meet Finance Minister Dwight Duncan on June 3, and plans to bring the voice of Greater Sudbury senior’s with her. At the meeting, Eng said she intended to bring up hydro and health care issues.

CARP is a national advocacy group for older adults that operates throughout the country, promoting “a new strategy for aging.” Members of the Sudbury chapter meet and communicate regularly to discuss key issues like pension reform, home care and health initiatives.