Harper government 'action' for aging Canadians

The reaction of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation (NPSCF) to this year's federal budget is disappointment. Every year prior to the budget our executive board presents a brief in Ottawa to the government. The brief is developed from membership resolutions to our annual national convention. Seniors and retirees in clubs and provincial organizations develop these throughout the year for the convention. In our brief, we also reference global and national studies done by the United Nations, the Senate of Canada, Statistics Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, chartered banks and numerous non-governmental organizations. After all this effort by thousands of Canadians, the evidence is clear.

This government is not interested in or not capable of making changes for the fastest growing segment of the population in this country. We are linking with other organizations and groups -- Idle No More, Common Causes, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Canadian Labour Congress, CCPA, Council of Canadians, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, Canadian Association on Gerontology, Canadian Health Coalition and others -- for mutual support. The NPSCF is joining with other Canadians to create hope and change for all Canadians. Inequity in Canada is becoming more polarized every day and the current system's dramatic focus on the private sector has not provided the wealth, jobs and leisure time promised over the last 30 years. It is time to take a different approach -- strong action needs to be taken using the abundant evidence that clearly shows there is a need for investment in our collective future.

When Canadians retire, there are a few staples they should be able to count on: income security, a decent standard of living, proper housing, a proper diet and medical care. Why? Society recognizes that most people spend their working lives employed by someone else to provide the income necessary to care for their families. Typically employers and others profit more from workers' labour than they do. Democracy is an idea that was developed in part to protect people from those who would sacrifice the needs of others to fill themselves to excess. The mechanism to apply democracy is an elected government.

This all sounds very basic but I thought it important to mention because many people don't seem to realize that this system of democracy is not working in Canada. Based on the trillions of dollars being generated every year through resource extraction, manufacturing, farming, processing, banking and other service sectors, it should be a fact that no one in Canada is lacking these basic services.

It is not possible that politicians who think for themselves and act on their convictions could vote so incredibly consistently against legislation which would benefit their constituents! Check the record. Bill C-400, "An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians," was voted on Feb. 27, 2013. Yea votes = 129. Nay votes = 153. Total = 282. The nay votes were all Conservative. All the yea votes were non-Conservative. Bill C-501, "An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act," which would entitle employees to termination, severance and pension moneys ahead of other creditors, did not become law. An increase to the Canada Pension Plan, which has broad support, has not been implemented. In November 2006, the Special Senate Committee on Aging was created with a broad mandate to review a wide range of complex issues to determine if Canada is providing the right programs and services at the right time to the individuals who need them. Their second recommendation suggested the government:

"provide leadership and coordination through initiatives such as a National Integrated Care Initiative, a National Caregiver Strategy, a National Pharmacare Program, and a federal transfer to address the needs of provinces with the highest proportion of the aging population."

In the last budget, the eligibility for Old Age Security was delayed from age 65 to 67 without any financial justification. The Harper government holds 166 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. So when a government is so clearly set against passing legislation which would help most Canadians, should we be surprised that they bring budgets which contain so little for the people who provided the labour and intellect to build this country?

There is no transparency, no integrity and no foundation for trust; just sleight of hand, avoiding financial clarity, blaming unions for the economic problems in Canada and an unalterable commitment to the belief that whatever is good for global capital is good for Canadians. Does this sound like Alice in Wonderland? The Minister of Finance does not need a new pair of shoes. Like the lion, he needs a heart. We need to pull back the curtain and expose the wizards. We need to expose their true stature and ability to represent our interests and lead our country.

Herb John is President of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation (NPSCP), which is affiliated with the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada.

Retiree Matters is a monthly column written by members of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) that explores issues relevant to retirees, senior citizens, their families and their communities. CURC acts as an advocacy organization to ensure that the concerns of union retirees and senior citizens are heard throughout Canada.

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