At the outset of this year’s election campaign, CARP invited the leaders of each federal party to visit our offices and address our members and concerns directly. Older Canadians make up a powerful voting bloc, and having the opportunity to speak directly to CARP members about our key advocacy issues represents an important opportunity for candidates to reach engaged voters.
On the morning of September 14, Justin Trudeau accepted CARP’s offer to directly address an audience of CARP members. Trudeau took the opportunity to introduce a comprehensive bundle of promises aimed at addressing old age poverty and financial security in retirement. His announcement included the following key proposals, each of which responds to directly to CARP’s extensive advocacy:
- Reverse the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) benefits, from 67 to 65
- Increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) by almost $1,000 per year
for single, low-income seniors
- Introduce a new seniors’ price index to ensure OAS and GIS payments keep up with rising costs
- Enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
- Extend compassionate care leave
- Invest $20 billion in social infrastructure, including seniors’ residences, rent- geared-to-income housing, and refurbishment of existing facilities
These promises are direct responses to many of the calls CARP has made in our effort to prevent and poverty in old age. CARP has long advocated for increases to the CPP and GIS, as well as additional income support for single seniors who live alone. We have also called for greater workplace flexibility and support for caregivers, and stronger investments in seniors’ residences and home care.
Politicians increasingly recognize that older Canadians are the most engaged voters, and that it is important and necessary to speak on issues that matter to CARP members. Trudeau’s announcement, said CARP Executive Vice President Susan Eng, is evidence that he “has clearly listened carefully to advocates for older Canadians.”
Following Trudeau’s speech, members took advantage of the opportunity to grill Trudeau on the finer points of his strategies for homecare, sustainable health care, and equitable social benefits. In particular, many attendees wanted to know more about Trudeau’s plans for expanding the CPP. During Monday’s town hall meeting, Trudeau promised that, if elected, he would begin talks with provincial governments on pension reform within three months of taking office.
Stewart Nam, the chair of North York’s CARP Chapter, asked Trudeau what he would do to bring national Pharmacare to Canadians. The Liberal leader was short on detail, but hinted that he would soon announce a formal position regarding cost-effective access to prescription drugs.
As the campaign continues, CARP looks forward all federal leaders elaborating on their platforms and plans for seniors in even greater detail. In the meantime, it’s evident that politicians understand clearly the pivotal role older voters play in determining elections outcomes.