This article was published by The Toronto Star on May 11th 2012. To see this article and other related articles on The Toronto Star website, please click here
OTTAWA—CARP, the national seniors group, says for the first time in four years its members are expressing more support for the federal New Democrats than Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
An internal poll of 2,600 CARP members found support for the NDP has risen to 39 per cent, substantially above 31 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals trailed at 25 per cent, CARP said.
The shift in CARP members’ political support is a major change, said Susan Eng, vice-presidency for advocacy.
“In our internal polls, the NDP always languished way behind as a distant third,” Eng said in an interview. “That stands to reason. We’ve got a very conservative-leaning crowd.”
For much of the past year, support for the Conservatives has hovered above 50 per cent, CARP said.
But that started to change when Harper unexpectedly announced in January the Conservative government planned in future to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security payments — a move put in place in the March 29 federal budget.
And in a development CARP called a “political game-changer,” the Harper government’s use of an omnibus budget bill to rewrite dozens of laws has prompted intense opposition from seniors.
“The vast majority (85 per cent) of CARP members reject the bundling of so many issues within Bill C-38, and as many as three quarters express their opinion in the strongest terms,” the group said.
“The strength and speed of the rejection of the omnibus (budget) bill is actually greater than their opposition to the OAS changes themselves for which there was still a core group of supporters (25 per cent) who said they would vote with the government regardless and/or accepted the government’s arguments,” CARP said. “This speaks to the strong support that CARP members have for our parliamentary processes and institutions that matter, if possible, even more than their concern for the social safety net.”
On Monday, CARP sent an open letter to Members of Parliament urgng them to support motions to hive off the OAS changes from Bill C-38 into separate legislation. During last year’s election, the letter noted, Harper did not mention any plans to change the OAS program.
“CARP members would be shattered to learn that such a fundamental part of our social safety net was rushed through Parliament on the strength of the government’s parliamentary majority alone, without adequate opportunity for full debate,” Eng said in the letter.
Earlier this week, the Conservatives held closed-door discussions with the NDP on the possibility of splitting up the budget implementation legislation into separate bills. But Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan said Wednesday the government was rejecting the NDP request. The government says MPs will have adequate time to examine and debate Bill C-38 and it is important to move ahead quickly with measures the Conservatives say will help the economy.