It’s Seniors Week and Seniors Month in provinces across Canada.
C.A.R.P. celebrates and works on behalf of seniors year round.
Interview with Bill VanGorder, C.A.R.P. COO and Interim Chief Policy Officer
What is C.A.R.P. and what is its mission?
C.A.R.P. is the oldest, largest and most influential organization in Canada that advocates for the interests of our older population. We are not for profit, have over 325,000 members, and engage governments at all levels to push for policies and legislation that will help Canadians age in better health, with financial security, and with stronger protection against ageism.
When was C.A.R.P. created?
C.A.R.P. was founded 37 years ago. The initials originally stood for Canadian Association of Retired Persons. But now, of course, more and more Canadians are not retiring “on schedule” at 65 – they are continuing to work. We’ve retained the initials, C.A.R.P., because they’re so well known, but we no longer refer to our membership as necessarily being “retired.”
What are the key things C.A.R.P. is fighting for?
We have three key pillars in our advocacy program:
First, health care. The Covid-19 crisis in our nursing homes revealed the shocking state of long-term care and the lack of appropriate care for older Canadians still living in their own homes and communities. C.A.R.P. called out for action long before the pandemic, and we continue to push for urgent reform and to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable for Canada’s terrible performance. We’re also advocating for better home care and community care as the real answer to long-term care. In particular, we want to see a caregiver refundable tax credit to support family-funded home care.
But the long-term care crisis is just one indicator of how dysfunctional our entire health care system has become. We’re simply not delivering what other countries – single-payer public health care systems like ours – are able to deliver. Our wait times are too long, our systems are too complex and fragmented, and the costs are far too high in relation to what we’re getting for the money.
Second, financial security. For the first time, increased longevity (good news) raises the possibility of outliving your money (bad news). C.A.R.P. is pushing for reduction or elimination of mandatory RRIF withdrawals, increasing the Canada Pension Plan Survivor Benefit by 25 per cent (for people 65 and older), legislation to better protect investors, and adding safeguards for pensioners whose companies go bankrupt. Our goal is for seniors to have more control over their finances and stronger protection for defined benefit pensions, so they are not left vulnerable.
Third, ageism. I wish it weren’t true, but we’re still seeing disturbing examples of ageism in the workplace and the marketplace – and even in some areas of government policy. There is more than a strong suspicion, for example, that the persistent neglect of our long-term care homes was in part caused by subtle and unspoken ageism coming from policy-makers. This has to stop now.
What makes C.A.R.P. so influential?
First, our constituency is itself influential. People over the age of 50 account for six out of every ten votes cast in federal and provincial elections. Politicians ignore us at their peril.
Second, C.A.R.P. is by far the largest organization representing older Canadians. The size of our membership immediately causes politicians and policy-makers to pay attention. Plus we have a decades-long track record of putting forward carefully researched and effective ideas for change. We do our homework, and this gives us ready access to the people deciding policy.
Third, we have a partnership with ZoomerMedia, the only media company in Canada that focuses exclusively on “Zoomers” – people age 45 and older. This gives us unparalleled access to a wide range of communications channels, including network TV, radio, a national magazine, and a suite of websites generating millions of page views per month. No other advocacy group has that kind of reach. When you join C.A.R.P., your voice is amplified many times over!
What are the other benefits of joining?
We’ve always had a strong portfolio of members-only discounts that can save you literally thousands of dollars a year. And our network of chapters enables you to plug into your local community and get involved to create positive change right where you live.
How much does it cost and how do you join?
Membership costs only $19.95 a year. You can find out more about C.A.R.P., our policies, chapters, and benefits at carp.ca. I hope everyone who reads this will take a closer look, and then join our cause!