Senior strategists

Originally published in the Toronto Star on March 16th, 2011. To go to the Toronto Star website please click here

The older you are in Canada, the more likely it is that you will cast a vote in the next election. The younger you are, the more chances that you will actually run the government, or at least be charged with its communications and ad campaigns.

Okay, the second part of that proposition is probably a bit of an over-simplification. As we all know, a 51-year-old man named Stephen Harper is running the government. We know this because he has named the government after himself.

On this issue of older voters, though, that first statement is absolutely true. Elections Canada estimates that only about 37 per cent of eligible young voters cast ballots in federal elections, while turnout approaches 70 per cent for people 55 years of age and older.

And older voters appear to care about the ethics issue, according to a poll carried out last weekend by the Canadian Association for Retired People. A full two-thirds of the people surveyed said that the Speaker’s rulings on contempt — focus of three days of Commons committee meetings starting today — would make these older voters less likely to vote for the Conservatives. What’s more:

There has been a precipitous drop in voter support for the Conservatives among CARP members. Among decided voters, voting support for the Conservatives has fallen more than 10 points from a high of 52% on February 11, to 46% on February 25 to the current 41%. Support for the Liberals rose the same 10 points from 32% to 36% and now to 42% during the same period. The NDP (12%) and the Green Party (5%) have stayed stable during this period.

Members are more likely now (33%) than they were on February 11 (27%) to say Canada needs an election.

There are two findings which do not bode well for the Conservatives. While the NDP is the second choice of one quarter of voters (26%), followed by the Green Party (14%) and the Liberals (13%), very few members make the Conservative party their second choice (8%). In addition, the proportion of undecided members in our latest poll is significantly lower than in the past. Taken together, these two findings indicate the Conservative party has now declined to its core base, and has very few options for gaining additional votes.

So it’s probably not a surprise that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Seniors Minister Julian Fantino are making a stop today at a CARP event in Markham. Given the poll, it’s likely that Ignatieff will be the more welcome guest, though Fantino does have some sway over how much government resources go toward seniors at the moment. Watch for Ignatieff to focus his remarks today on ethics; Fantino to talk about money, funds for a hospital in particular. The value/values tug of war continues….

© The Toronto Star

Keywords: seniors, election