Federal Government: Opportunities for CARP Advocacy & Education

At CARP we often talk about how awareness and advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

Our work starts with listening to older Canadians and understanding their experiences of aging. We also listen to allied organizations and experts on issues that impact our members.

Once we identify an issue, we have ongoing awareness-building and education to do. We share information with our members through our newsletters, website, webinars, chapters, social media and more. We have interviews with the media, we make sure elected officials hear us loud and clear through meetings and parliamentary processes (you can read more about those in this article).

Education helps mobilize our members, whether individually, or through our chapters, to engage with decision-makers and elected officials.  We like to remember older Canadians that with our growing numbers, and lifetime worth of skills and experience we are a powerful constituent group, and elected officials pay attention.

Fall is soon upon us and Parliament will soon be back in session.  For those who could use one, here is a refresher on how CARP educates and advocates in the context of the federal government.

Overview of the current government’s mandate

Combined, the Speech from the Throne, Mandate Letters and budgets help set the marching orders for Ministers. These documents will help give you an idea on what is top-of-mind for elected officials.

Speech from the Throne

When an elected government begins its term and summons Parliament, it sets out the broad goals and directions of the government and the initiatives it will undertake to accomplish those goals through a Speech from the Throne.

Mandate Letters to Ministers

The Prime Minister assigns direction to each of his Ministers through a Mandate Letter outlining their goals.

Federal budgets and economic statements

The annual Federal Budget and economic statements lay out the proposed funding for programs and initiatives the Ministers’ departments will work on to achieve their results.

The Government

Did you know that as of last count there are 156 federal organizations across over 25 portfolios, 32 Ministers and more than 300 thousand federal public servants? The Government is big and this means CARP and its members have to share our message multiple times, in different ways, to different audiences.  This is why it helps to have older Canadians from across the country engage with their elected officials as well.

Government structure

It is important to keep in mind that Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Some responsibilities are not federal. At the federal level, some issues might require new legislation. To learn more about an issue, you could read proposed bills and take a look at the different arguments for and against the bill by visiting Legisinfo. You can also keep tabs on what Parliament is discussing through the Debates (Hansard).”

Federal Departments and Agencies at a glance

The Government’s day-to-day operations are maintained through a network of portfolios that currently includes over 25 ministerial departments and many other agencies and crown corporations. You can also access thousands of free public reports and publications, stay up to date on what the Government is doing by following news releases and official statements or check out open source data on government budgets staff and results which are available on GCInfoBase.

How a Bill Becomes Law

Legislation and CARP education and advocacy opportunities

A bill is passed through Parliament and eventually becomes law. CARP works to influence the legislative process when bills that could impact older Canadians pass through legislation. Here’s how:

Before introduction of a bill

  • CARP stays aware of possible introduction of new bills
  • Where possible, CARP provides feedback on draft bill.

Introduction of the Bill.  A motion is introduced to put a bill on the parliamentary agenda.  This is usually done by a government minister, but a private member can also introduce a motion for a private member’s bill

First Reading in the House of Commons.  The law is introduced to Members of Parliament, but no debate is held.  Although this step is called first reading, the bill is not actually read aloud in the chamber – it is made available for parliamentarians and Canadians to read and examine. The bill is printed and given a number.  A House of Commons bill is given C-# and a Senate bill is given S-#.

  • CARP shares reasons for concern or support with others including members, the media, MPs, allies
  • CARP asks for withdrawal of the bill if necessary

Second Reading: Debating the Idea.  After the second reading, individual members debate the issues raised in the bill.  At this stage, the general principles of the bill are discussed (not the fine details).

This gives parliamentarians (and other Canadians) a chance to listen to different points of view on the bill. After the time for debate is over, parliamentarians vote on whether the bill will continue through the process. If the vote supports the bill, the bill is sent to a committee for a closer look.

  • CARP shares reasons for concern or support with others including members, the media, MPs, allies and other seniors ‘ focused organizations
  • CARP asks for withdrawal of the bill if necessary
  • CARP asks for hearings in anticipation of committee stage.

 Committee Stage: Discussion and witnesses.  If the bill passes the second reading, it goes on to the committee stage.  In this stage, a subcommittee or standing committee (composed of members from all parties) reviews the legislation in detail.  Witnesses (individuals and representatives from organizations) can comment on the bill. The committee can also invite government officials and experts to answer questions.  Each clause is discussed and considered, and amendments are proposed.  When the committee has finished its review, it orders that the bill be sent back to the House of Commons.

  • CARP suggests witnesses or acts as a witness to committees
  • CARP recommends amendments
  • CARP makes views known to older Canadians, media, MPs, allies and other seniors’ focused organizations

Report Stage – Back to the chamber. The House of Commons reviews the amendments proposed by the committee.  There is also opportunity for members not on the committee to propose additional amendments.  Each amendment is moved, debated, and voted on by the House of Commons. 

  • CARP makes views on proposed amendments known to the older Canadians, media, MPs, allies and other seniors’ organizations

Third Reading. The bill is sent back to the House for a final reading, debate and final vote.  If there are unresolved issues with the legislation, then it may be sent back to committee for review and further amendments.Parliamentarians can choose to stop supporting a bill at any phase of the legislative process. They might vote “yes” at second reading to allow for further study and discussion, but vote “no” at third reading if they do not approve of the final version of the bill. If a bill is rejected or if a decision is not made before a session of Parliament ends, the bill stops going through the legislative process. If the bill is passed by a majority of parliamentarians at third reading in the chamber where it was introduced, it is then sent to the other chamber.

  • CARP makes strong case to MPs to vote for or against the bill
  • CARP mobilizes CARP members individually and through chapters to engage with elected officials.

Sent to the other chamber

Most bills begin in the House of Commons and are sent to the Senate for review. Bills can also start in     the Senate and then go to the House of Commons for review. When a bill is sent from one chamber to the other, the bill is read again for the first time and goes through the same steps.

If the reviewing chamber makes any changes, the bill gets sent back to the initial chamber for further review. Messages may go back and forth between the chambers as amendments are debated. Most amendments are intended to clarify, simplify or improve a bill. 

  • CARP makes strong case to MPs to vote for or against the bill
  • CARP mobilizes CARP members individually and through chapters to engage with elected officials

Bill passes through the Senate. The bill passes through the same process in the Senate as it did in the House of Commons (stages 1-6).  The Senate only has power to delay passage of the bill or suggest changes to the House.  It cannot defeat the bill.  (If the bill is originally introduced in the Senate, then stages 1-6 occur in the Senate first, and then in the House of Commons.)

  • CARP focuses on awareness/education on bill and its impact, positive or negative on older Canadians

Royal Assent – Becoming a law. When the bill is approved by both the House and the Senate, it is sent to the Governor General for Royal Assent.  When it has passed this stage, the bill is officially an Act of Parliament.

2023 Bills that CARP is Advocating For 

Pension Protection Act, providing significant protection to older Canadians whose companies have become insolvent.

  • In April 2023, Bill C-228, a private member’s bill received royal assent, meaning it has become law. While not all change takes decades, this victory took nearly 20 years to bring to fruition.

National Eyecare Strategy

Info on Bills currently undergoing the parliamentary process

How new laws and regulations are created