On April’s Fools day there was a skit on CBC radio with Mary Walsh (actress, comedian and social activist) as the host who announced the formation of a new political party. Venerable and well-known Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent had the task of announcing the formation this new political party for seniors … the Sage Party! As the leader of this ’Sage Party’ Gordon Pinsent explained that this party intended to give a ‘voice to seniors’ as this growing segment of the population, our seniors, are not being served properly. Although this was merely a spoof created especially for our entertainment on April Fools Day there was an oblique message that seniors should become politically active. In the spoof Gordon Pinsent extolled the ‘wisdom of elders’ and noted that although seniors are becoming a ‘huge voting block’ most of the issues that matter to them are not addressed seriously. Hence the creating of this new political party specifically for seniors.
Of course this was just a parody created especially for April Fools day but the underlying message a viewer got was that seniors’ issues and concerns should be central to the current political debate. For those of you who missed the airing of the spoof you may check this link for the podcast:
While there was much light-hearted banter in this spoof it underscored the fact our politicians need to focus more on seniors’ issues and pension reform. A substantial number in this demographic, especially those without adequate pension incomes, will face significant challenges due to inflation and cost of living increases. Many retirees in this group were unable to purchase a significant amount of RRSPs due to their low earnings during their working lives. They are uncertain as to whether the various election promises on pension reforms will be adequate or sustainable. It is time for politicians to come clean and provide more details on how they plan to keep and fund their promises. The pension reform issue, along with major concerns about adequate health care and housing, are all important issues for this segment of the population that may well motivate and encourage them to go cast their vote.
The platform and promises of the various parties are largely identical. The differences are found in how to achieve what is being promised. Regrettably, but not surprising, information is not forthcoming on how to find the funding needed to realize these promises. This link provides a comparison of how the platforms of the major political parties stack up on ‘retirement security’: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/publications/retirment-security-and-2011-federal-election.
(Refer to the links at the end for detailed information on where the political parties stand on various issues.)
As the election campaign is picking up steam our leaders are earnestly selling their plans for existing pensions and also future plans to ensure that future retirees will have pensions on which they can survive. More than ever pensioners on modest incomes are struggling to deal with increased cost of living as that impacts what their monthly ‘basket of goods’ will or will not include. While pensioners are concerned about what our politicians plan to do with CPP, OAS and GIS benefit many are very tuned into challenges faced by all Canadians in this uncertain economy.
We have a lot of shortcomings socially, culturally and economically that need to be addressed by whichever political party is in power. For example, there are challenges such as increased poverty levels, child care needs, homelessness and lack of affordable housing, women’s issues, First Nations issues, health care challenges, relief to caregivers of elders, a shrinking workforce, the environment…. and the list goes on. Yet we also recall that at the height of the recession generous bailouts were readily given to the very sectors of society that created the financial crisis in the first place, i.e. large corporations and the financial industry. Ordinary working people were not given similar consideration.
Pensioners and those about to retire need to become more engaged and better acquainted with the pension reforms being promoted by politicians. As a matter of fact we would be remiss if we don’t include younger workers in this conversation about pension reforms since many don’t have pension plans in place at their workplace. Think carefully about what all politicians are trying to sell with regard to pension reform.
Let us remind our politicians that they must look beyond the wishes or demands of the political lobbyists and corporate elites and instead develop policies to ensure all Canadians can look forward to retire with dignity and not see it as a ticket to the land of poverty!