Seniors issues need boost in mayoral race: advocates

Originally published on the CBC News Website on August 11th, 2010. To go to the CBC News website please click here

The five frontrunners for Toronto’s mayoralty discussed seniors’ issues at a debate Wednesday — issues that advocates say don’t get examined enough by those in power.

The debate, hosted by the Canadian Association of Retired People, was billed as a challenge to the “next mayor to champion an age-friendly Toronto.”

On Tuesday, mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone promised to freeze property-tax rates for seniors with a household income of $50,000 or less. He also promised to build what he called “outdoor gyms” for the elderly and expedite the TTC’s plan to make every subway station accessible by elevator.

Rival George Smitherman has promised seniors will ride for free on the TTC between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

But none the other major candidates — Rocco Rossi, Sarah Thomson and Rob Ford — have outlined any specific policy promises targeted at seniors.

Zanana Akande, a community advocate and former NDP MPP, said that has to change soon if they hope to make a difference politically.

“They do that at their peril, because we’re the largest group of people who consistently vote and also very concerned about issues that affect us,” she said.

‘This is a wonderful city. We could make it better’

Mayoral candidates should be focusing on improving social services like mobile healthcare or food programs so that people can stay in their homes longer, she said.

Currently, seniors are forced to choose between two harsh realities, she added.

“It’s either live in the middle of the city and not be able to afford it or live on the outskirts and not have the services which you need accessible to you.”

Carol Libman, a writer and advocate for CARP, said there a number of simple things that can be done to allow older people to better navigate the city, like making buildings more accessible.

Her vision of Toronto “would be one where everyone can get around, wherever they need to go easily, accessibly, affordably, no matter what age you are,” she said.

“This is a wonderful city. We could make it better.”

During Wednesday’s debate the candidates spoke to some elements of their platforms that appeal specifically to seniors. But for the most part they repeated their main campaign messages.

Rob Ford talked about waste at City Hall, George Smitherman called Ford’s plan “reckless,” while Joe Pantelone trumpeted his experience.

© CBC News

Keywords: seniors, election