The NDP win in the recent Manitoba election means Wab Kinew is set to become the first First Nations provincial premier in Canada.
The recent election in Manitoba also means that CARP’s significant work in support of an independent seniors advocate with legislative authority to demand accountability has paid off.
CARP has been advocating on this issue for 2 years and met with Minister Johnston early in 2022 to explain the rationale and the concept before they began their consultations. At that time there was no real interest in discussing anything that wasn’t already pre-determined by the Premier and Minister.
At that time NDP immediately came out in support of a seniors advocate, and Liberals supported the concept as well, though not necessarily a legislated role.
CARP views the time before an election, whether at a municipal, provincial or federal level, as a critical opportunity to highlight key advocacy issues and priorities, particularly those that might relate to political parties’ broader commitments.
In summer 2023, CARP formed a coalition with others including the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg in the interests of advocating in the lead up to the Provincal election (October 3).
CARP and allies held a media conference unveiling a pledge and the plan for leaders of each party to sign.
I think that it’s really easy to come out and say, ‘This is what we want to happen,’ and invite the leaders to be part of the process,” says Carmen Nedohin, CARP Manitoba President said, “And it’s also easy for them to avoid. This way, if we have that large visual (pledge form), people are going to be able to see for themselves: these are the ones who signed on and this is the one who didn’t, if that’s the case.”
As it happened, the PC party did not sign the commitment for a seniors advocacy who can identify systemic problems and have the legislative authority to demand accountability, though the NDP and Liberals did.
A seniors advocate would function in a manner similar to the Manitoba advocate for children and youth, but would focus on key issues such as personal-care homes, health care, aging-in-place, home care, transportation, culturally appropriate services, housing — including services for unhoused older adults — and income support.
The role of seniors advocate is critical in all provinces and territories across Canada, though they take different forms. CARP believes three elements are critical in ensuring a truly meaningful and productive role in representing seniors’ interests:
- Degree of independence from the government (a true advocate needs to be arms reach from governmental bias).
- Who the senior advocate reports to (reporting to the legislature provides more clout than to a minister)
- Who advises the advocate (is there a council of senior leaders providing insight and advice to the advocate)?
CARP Manitoba will continue to monitor the situation in Manitoba. “We will be more than happy to praise the decision makers and legislators that will implement changes and enhancements that help all older Manitobans remain independent, healthy and an integral part of our society. We will also hold their feet to the fire if promises made are not promises kept,” says Carmen Nedohin.