Seniors needs a voice in government


When giving directions to a stranger, do you refer to landmarks such as the Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons or the Home Depot and Canadian Tire? Your choice says something about your viewpoint, and it may even affect the way the stranger experiences the journey.

In laying out directions for success, well-managed companies ensure they use a wide variety of landmarks — and it pays off: companies with more diverse points of view perform better.

We can build this quality into our organizations by designating roles that direct our attention to key issues. That’s why Apple has a chief design officer, Google has a chief innovation evangelist and CARP’s sister company, ZoomerMedia, has a chief audience officer. When analyzing an opportunity, the chief financial officer asks how it will affect the bottom line, and the chief of human resources asks how it will affect staff.

So it’s quite remarkable that our federal government is still failing to consider how its decisions will affect our seniors.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the federal Liberals have made strides in considering how policies impact women and Indigenous peoples. But they have remained largely silent on issues facing our seniors. While an overdue $1,000 annual increase in payments to our poorest seniors was welcome, many other opportunities to help older Canadians have been spurned:

• Pensioners’ financial security remains at risk, with no commitment from the government other than a vague budget promise to “obtain feedback from pensioners, workers and companies” on how to protect Canadians’ pensions;

• The Seniors’ Price Index, promised in the Liberal’s campaign platform, has yet to materialize;

• Recommendations from a world-class study on elder abuse commissioned by the federal Conservatives have been largely ignored;

• Mandatory RRIF withdrawals are out of sync with current life expectancies and safe market returns, putting retirees at risk of outliving their savings, and

• Protections for investors, many of whom are seniors, languish and governments look the other way while Canadians pay some of the highest investment fees in the world.

One reason seniors’ issues are not on the table is because they have no champion, either in staff or structure. In contrast, there is a Minister for Women, two Ministers for Indigenous Peoples and two ministers, including our Prime Minister himself, with designated responsibility for children and youth.

This government hasn’t recognized seniors as worthy of representation in their own right. Older Canadians only exist in hidden fashion, acknowledged in ministerial title by their relationship to younger people (family) or their usefulness to society (community).

This flies in the face of the growth of the senior population, the World Health Organization’s identification of aging as one of the most important trends in Canada and the world, and actions from other countries to prioritize seniors’ issues, like the recent appointment of a Minister for Loneliness in the U.K. or the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman in Ireland.

While a number of MPs are 65 or older, the vast majority of seniors are retired and very few make $175,000 a year (the current salary for an MP). It’s hard to argue that even our oldest MPs can identify with the challenges a typical Canadian senior faces.

With a federal election coming in 2019, CARP strongly encourages all federal parties to consider the needs of seniors and ensure they have a voice — a full cabinet minister responsible for seniors would be a good start.

Make your voice heard. Sign the Our Commons petition to the federal government by searching for petition e-1566 — available at


Grey Matters is a weekly column by Wanda Morris, the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000 member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care for Canadians as we age. Missed a week? Past columns by Wanda and other key CARP contributors can be found at