After a scant twenty-two months in office, the governing party, the Liberals, have decided to try for a greater mandate and have called a federal election, to be held on September 20, 2021.

This seems like as good a time as any to evaluate the parties, through the eyes of a senior… a senior currently promoting a Grey Ruckus (that would be me!)

There are many issues that need to be addressed in any election, but perhaps even more so in this election with all the goings on both domestically and globally.  Because I’m writing through the eyes of Grey Ruckus and Boomer Women, I’m focussing on senior issues only.

For those of you not fully apprised of Canadian federal politics, we have two major parties who consistently hold the reins on power in Canada:  the afore-mentioned Liberals and the Conservatives.  The New Democratic Party (NDP) have never won an election, but on a number of occasions have won enough seats to hold the balance of power, either enabling or disabling the ruling party to have their way.  It’s not necessarily a bad spot to be in as their support can come with a bit of a “cost”, shall we say… we’ll support you but we want a few changes to the legislation… or we’ll support you but in return you also do “this… whatever “this” might be, and in fairness, they are mostly in support of the working class.  Since 1991, there has also been a fourth prominent party, the Bloc Quebecois.  While it’s exclusively in Quebec and devoted to Quebec nationalism and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty, it has, several times, taken enough of Quebec’s seats to hold the balance of power within the Canadian government.  The Green’s also have had a few elected party members but not enough to have impact at the federal level.

For my ramblings (perhaps a nicer word than rants) today, I am going to look at the election platforms of the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the NDP.  The Bloc are a Quebec only party so will never form government and the Green’s still have not published a platform for this election.

Here’s a preamble:  as I write this, it’s the end of August 2021.  Covid has been a determining part of our lives for 18 months.  Because I’m writing as a senior Boomer, analyzing the political platforms as they relate to seniors, the statistics I review will be for seniors only.

As of August 26, 2021, there have been a total of 1,482,664 cases of covid reported in Canada.  There have been 26,864 deaths related to covid.  I am not going to entertain any arguments here about the elderly and underlying symptoms – they still died because of covid.

250,031 of those cases have been in people over 60. That’s 16.9% of all cases. In terms of deaths, of the 26,755 (I’m not sure why there’s a discrepancy there, but close enough), 25,150 of them have been in people over 60.  That’s 93.9%.

Any of us over 65, any of us who have been part of caring for an elder, any of us who have experience with care facilities, know there was a problem with management of senior’s needs long before covid.  Covid only laid bare the facts, the truths, the dirty little secrets that have managed to exist under the radar of public scrutiny.

So now there’s an election.  It’s my opinion that the Liberals are hoping for such gratitude for their handling of Covid that the electorate (that’s us, folks) will gift them a majority government.  A majority means they won’t need to cooperate with any of the other parties to actuate their mandate for four more years.

But here at Grey Ruckus, this ruckus raiser isn’t big on gifting anyone power.  I want to know what the plans are for retirement, for pensions, for housing, for health, for jobs, for anything that might affect my life, for better or for worse.

It’s time to move on to the platforms.  I’ll start with the Liberals as they are currently forming government.

For more information on any items, readers need only click the highlighted words – they’re hyperlinked to the pertinent pages.

Interestingly, the Liberals have delayed releasing their official election platform.  I say “interestingly” as they were the ones in control of calling the election and arranging the date, but we’re 2 weeks into the campaign and they haven’t released anything official.  However… the day after the election call, the Conservatives had their platform released.  I can only presume this is part of the psychology of elections and the wooing of the electorate.  Rumour has it the official Liberal release will be within the next few days, but this article is also a podcast episode and I have a podcast schedule so can’t wait.  As I couldn’t find a complete Liberal Party platform for this election, I clicked on “Our Plan” at their website and then had to decide which cause I wanted to read about.

May I put an editorial note in here?  Do you know about Control F?  When you’re on a webpage – I use Chrome – and want to find a specific word or phrase hold the Control button, then click f.  A little box appears top right, you write in seniors (or whatever) and it’ll tell you how many times that word appears on that page.  Click the little up or down arrows to find the words on the page.

OK, so the Liberals… Our Plan… here’s my results:

COVID-19: one mention – “Vaccines are the best way for Canadians to beat this virus and keep everyone, including our kids and seniors, safe and healthy.”

Financial Institutions, Build Back Better: Zero. No mention of seniors.

A Home. For Everyone:  Zero. No mention of seniors.

Access to a Doctor or Health Care Team:  one mention – “This means $14B in new investments, on top of the $9B over 5 years that a re-elected government will commit to deliver better care for Canada’s seniors.” The last six words they hyperlink to the one category for seniors. I’m going there last.

Paid Sick Leave and Healthy Communities: Zero. No mention of seniors.

Climate Change: Zero. No mention of seniors.

Businesses: Zero. No mention of seniors.

Child Care: Zero. No mention of seniors.

Please remember I’m creating a fact-driven report only.  I realize there is no reason in some of these categories to specify anything about seniors.  In fairness, out of ten categories of election platform chit-chat, two of them specify seniors. I’ll start with the Better Care part as that speaks to older and/or frailer seniors, not the me and Judith seniors who are still pretty vital health and physical-wise, we just want to be sure we can make ends meet and are assured respect when we do get older and frailer.  Better Care does link to a pdf document.

Here’s my take on the document: It is Covid-driven.  That’s not my opinion, the first four words are “The COVID-19 pandemic…”.  It starts with lots of talk about ‘we did this’, ‘we did this’, and ‘we did this’. If memory serves that was reactive, not pro-active.  And it was reactive because the government had no idea what the reality on the ground was for seniors in care in this country. There is an argument here for what is federal jurisdiction and what is provincial jurisdiction, but bottom line is it was an – excuse me – shit show for our elderly, their families and many facilities who were profit-driven prior to Covid.

As I have a background in many areas of facility care, I’m going to dissect some of their words for you.  Here are the words, with my interjections:

A re-elected Liberal government will work collaboratively with provinces and territories, respecting their jurisdiction, to continue supporting seniors with an investment of $9 billion over 5 years, to:

  • Raise wages for personal support workers, including a guaranteed minimum wage of at least $25 per hour;

I can speak only to BC here, but many of our Residential Care Aides (RCAs) and Health Care Aides (HCAs) are union members so earn close to that already. (B.C.’s Bill 29 won’t be addressed here!) Because there’s always a hierarchy in staffing, any increases in wages need to be bumped upwards so the divisions of labour and responsibility are paid appropriately.  And then there’s the non-care staff.  Have you ever considered what would happen in a hospital, or a facility, if there were no housekeepers, or laundry staff or maintenance or kitchen workers?  Precisely, each and every one has tremendous value separate from education type or level.  Each and every job is vital to the care and health of the occupants.

  • Train up to 50,000 new personal support workers;

Several thoughts come to mind here.  When training pushes are made, that training can become the go-to training for everyone and anyone who is looking for training or retraining.  Whether they are suitable for the career or not.  I have been on two sides of the table.  At one facility I worked at, I was the front office person… the first contact – sometimes only contact – when a person walked in the door.  I lost count of the number of resumes thrust at me for forwarding to the nursing department because dropping off resumes was a requirement of the funding.  Many of these people had no interest in securing a position, some of them said as much, asking me to sign their form that they had indeed dropped the resume off.  Do we want attitude like that caring for our most vulnerable?  Is that an improvement to the overworked, short-staffed facilities we currently have?  Then there is my own experience.  I was moving on in life.  I had acquired enough skills to make me attractive to a new department being formed.  I need to upgrade a few skills and gain a few others.  Because there was an office offering financial help for furthering education I decided to apply – I had suffered a few financial blows thanks to 2008 and caring for my mother in my own home.  I needed only about $2,000 to upgrade my skills.  No, I was told, I should become a care aide, care aides were in high demand and that’s where the education dollars were being put.  I explained that a care aide career was not what I wanted, not to mention the fact I was in my mid-50s and not getting any younger for dealing with the physical work load that career entailed.  My counsellor finally agreed and said they’d allow me to apply for a different career path, to the tune of $50,000.  I explained that was a ridiculous waste of money when all I needed was a few specific skills, and I had the tentative job offer to prove it.  Perhaps just as well common ground couldn’t be found, as here I am online and loving it!

  • Double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, which will provide up to an additional $1,500 to help seniors stay in their homes longer by making them more accessible;

Currently $10,000 may be spent each year to make a home more accessible for a qualifying individual.  A maximum $1500 tax credit is given.  They’re going to double both those amounts but, bottom line is, seniors still have to find the money to spend the money before they qualify for a tax credit.

  • Improve the quality and availability of long-term care home beds;

Can you hear me laughing here?  This has been on government agendas for a couple of decades now (that I know of) so I’ll just say “I’ll believe it when I see it”.  And if they are going to use enticements to private companies or REITs to fill the void, my mantra for 20+ years has been that care and shareholders shouldn’t mix.

  • Continue to implement strict infection prevention and control measures, including through more provincial and territorial facility inspections for long-term care homes;

I have worked at sites with amazing Infection Control procedures – it’s not rocket science.  Every facility should have dedicated staff staying up-to-date and proactive with infection control.  It’s more than just Covid: it’s pressure sores, and hygiene and by-products of other ailments such as diabetes (to name just a few).  I’ve seen sores that threatened the contents of my stomach.  It’s important, has been important, since way before Covid.

  • Develop a Safe Long Term Care Act collaboratively to ensure that seniors are guaranteed the care they deserve, no matter where they live.”

All I’ll say here is that it’s like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.  Where was that legislation fifty years or more ago? and if the federal government wants to plead that it has been the jurisdiction of the provinces, then, if they can intervene now, they could have intervened fifty years (or more) ago.

Well, I’m >2000 words in and haven’t even finished with the Liberals yet.

The second area where the Liberals discuss seniors is “Liberals move forward to deliver more support for seniors who need it most

Honestly, I have, at times, liked leader Justin Trudeau.  But here’s what the platform says, and it does, quite honestly sound like a page out of his “sunny ways” campaign of 2015.

Seniors deserve a safe and comfortable retirement, but for too many, paying their bills and putting food on the table is a challenge.

A re-elected Liberal government will continue making life more affordable for seniors by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $500 for single seniors and $750 for senior couples. We’ll also help seniors stay in their homes longer and work with the provinces and territories to improve long-term care so seniors are safe and comfortable wherever they live.

This builds on our $9 billion commitment to provide better care for seniors and frontline care workers, as well as actions we have already taken to make life more affordable for seniors both before and during the pandemic, including:

  • Restoring the retirement age to 65 from 67 after the Conservatives raised it;
  • Increasing the GIS for 900,000 seniors and lifting about 57,000 out of poverty;
  • Providing more than $900 for single seniors and $1,500 for senior couples, on top of regular benefits, for low-income seniors to get through the pandemic.

We had seniors’ backs through the pandemic – supporting them when they needed it the most.

We have to keep moving forward for Canadian seniors.”

Pretty vague, but let me have at it for a minute:  The GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) is a joke, has always been a joke, as shown by the fact that 57,000 seniors live in poverty in a wealthy nation.  I crunch some numbers in a previous post at Grey Ruckus – they might surprise you; they should embarrass the government.

Returning retirement age to 65 – the change to 67 happened in 2012 and the Liberals have had since 2015 to change it but it’s only now, when the eyes of so many Canadians are on them, they take action.  I don’t have much to say here… I think I said it all in my first article.

Judith and I have all sorts of suggestions to make life better for Canadian seniors if the government would listen – and they should listen because we believe our ideas would in fact save the government money and improve quality of life for a lot of people!

And so ends my critique of the Liberal Party platform.

The Conservatives are up next.  They have prepared an 83 page pdf, quite a beautiful publication it is too… which they released the day after an election was called… so they were certainly just waiting for the call.  They were not surprised or upset, they were ready and waiting.

So, Control f – seniors.

First reference, headline “Supporting Women Who Care for Their Aging Parents” – oooh, burn to the gentlemen! but the verbiage is more inclusive:

  • We will help the many Canadians who are taking care of their parents and help seniors avoid having to live in Long-Term Care homes by introducing the Canada Seniors Care benefit, paying $200 per month per household to any Canadian who is living with and taking care of a parent over the age of 70.”

I burst out laughing here.  I took care of my mother in my own home.  $200 is a slap in the face. The excerpt was prefaced with the words “Canada’s Conservatives know that the burden of caring for aging parents falls disproportionately on women and can be a deterrent to women remaining and advancing in the workforce.”  Thank you, Mr. O’Toole, $200 a month sure makes up for the hours taken off work and makes losing out on that advancement and raise no big deal.  Because we – women and men – love our elders and accept the cost.

Next:

  • “Canada’s Conservatives will ensure that Canadians get the banking services they need at a price they can afford by:

Requiring more transparency for investment management fees so seniors and savers don’t get ripped off – This will include requiring the banks to show investment returns net of fees.”

I’m sure that makes those 57,000 seniors living in poverty feel better!

Then

  • Protecting Vulnerable Seniors: Canada’s Conservatives will provide stronger protection for seniors by amending the Criminal Code provisions on failing to provide the necessities of life to make clear that the operator of a licensed care facility shall be presumed to have a legal duty to the residents of that facility”

Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the Criminal Code get quoted after a deed is done?  and do operators of licensed care facilities not currently have a legal duty to the residents?  Could be questioned if the Conservatives are maybe just suggesting operators of care facilities remain unlicensed.  I think I’m getting confused by the rhetoric.

Now we get to the “meat”. “A Detailed Plan to Support Seniors”:  “Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to help seniors stay in their own homes, improve the quality of Long-Term Care, and maintain financial security for seniors by ensuring that their pensions are secure.

There are lots of words in this document so I’ll try to pick out the main ideas.

Canada’s Conservatives will help Seniors Stay in their Own Homes by:

  • Amending the Home Accessibility Tax Credit by increasing the limit from $10,000 per dwelling to $10,000 per person.
  • Allowing seniors or their caregivers, including their children, to claim the Medical Expense Tax Credit for home care instead of only allowing them to claim attendant care if they live in a group home.”

Well, I talked about the Home Accessibility Tax Credit in my discussion of the Liberal platform.  The Liberals doubled the spend limit AND the tax credit.  What the Conservatives seem to be saying here is you can spend that much per person in the abode, which is good… but I know old people and if one person needs a few assists implemented and another needs a whole bunch, they’ll claim each other’s overages… I truly hope the Conservatives wouldn’t serve up a serious dose of investigation.

As for Medical Expense Tax Credits, I do not purport to know the ins and outs of Canada’s tax system, but I still do some home support with a few frail seniors still living at home, and every January, I send them an income tax receipt for whatever they have paid for my services over the year, and so far they’ve claimed my amounts so this part confuses me.

The next part revisits the $200/month Care Benefit, and I just realized it’s per household.  So you could be taking care of your mum and dad and your partner’s mum and the household still gets $200?  Yikes.

OK, now “Fixing Long-Term Care”.

  • “Canada’s Conservatives will devote $3 billion of infrastructure funding over the next three years to renovate Long-Term Care Homes in all provinces and territories across Canada to improve the care that residents receive. We will encourage partnerships with private non-profits that have historically provided a significant amount of Long-Term Care.”

I have two concerns here.  Renovations.  I don’t know how many facilities are too old, but that many are is a fact.  From small 4-bed wards to seismic upgrading, renos are just not worth it.  If they want to hire me, I’ll describe housing that meets the needs of both seniors and pandemics. But they’re new builds.

As for partnerships with private non-profits, I hope that’s not a copout given the fact that some of these non-profits have great revenue raising capabilities… great enough that the government could ease up on their funding.

“Canada’s Conservatives will help meet the need for Personal Support Workers by:

  • Providing priority in immigration programs to those who can work in Long-Term Care or homecare.
  • Promoting these careers through immigration and refugee settlement programs.”

I squirmed when I read that for the first time.  It reminded me of all the 7-11 stores and taxicabs operated by South Asians; South Asians with PhDs and a ton of professional credentials… who were welcome in Canada but couldn’t practice their profession.

  • “Canada’s Conservatives will double the Canada Workers Benefit up to a maximum of $2,800 for individuals or $5,000 for families and pay it as a quarterly direct deposit rather than a tax refund at year-end. This will help seniors who choose to continue working past retirement to give themselves a bit more income. It will provide a $1/hour raise for low-income seniors include many who choose to work part-time to supplement their retirement income.”

The Canada Workers’ Benefit is fine but don’t use it as a gift to low income seniors.  If a low-income senior is working, chances are it’s because they need to.  Do something about pensions.  Again, take a look at my previous article.

  • We will also better protect pensions by:
    • Preventing executives from paying themselves bonuses while managing a company going through restructuring if the pension plan is not fully funded.
    • No longer forcing underfunded pension plans from being converted to annuities, something that currently locks in losses and results in workers getting less money.
    • Requiring companies to report the funding status of their pension plans more clearly.”

Does that sound a lot like business issues, not low-income senior issue?  On a go-forward basis, it might be a good plan but it’s too late for too many others now.

And that abruptly ends the Conservative’s references to seniors.

Finally, the NDP – New Democratic Party.  They are, apparently Ready for Better”

The first 63 pages of the NDP platform seemed to be mostly preamble.  Overviews of issues with the word senior included as if, by specifying seniors, their needs would be addressed specifically.

Page 63: “Security for all seniors” will be handled by a “National Seniors Strategy”.

  • This will include a funded national dementia strategy, and an elder abuse prevention plan developed with seniors to put an end to abuse and neglect in our communities.” 
  • “Our national pharmacare for all plan will provide prescription medicine to all seniors, saving seniors hundreds of dollars every year and ensuring that no one needs to choose between medicine and other essentials, and our dental care plan will mean that uninsured seniors can go to the dentist when they need to, without facing costly bills.”
  • “In order to help make life a little more affordable for caregivers, who are overwhelmingly women, we’ll make the Canada Caregiver Tax Credit refundable.” 
  • “accessible housing will increase choices for seniors.” 
  • “tackle seniors’ isolation by improving seniors’ access to technology and support to stay connected with family, providing more funding for community programs that do outreach to seniors to combat isolation, working with cities to make transit more affordable and convenient, creating more community recreation spaces, and supporting innovative housing solutions like intergenerational co-housing.”

It was really hard to put interjection comments in to this platform.  The concepts are good but the ideas are vague.  There are no specifics and no mention of actual dollars.  I did an extra search of the internet as I know separate bodies do a cost analysis of platforms but I was unable to find anything for the NDP platform.

My concern with the NDP, given the fact they are ‘the people’s party’ is that the spend will careen out of control as they try to make all things better for all people… well, except for the super rich – they do get more specific about taxation with that demographic.

Have you ever renovated an old house? You decide to update something and once the job is begun, issues arise that need to be dealt with first, then major issues are discovered that also have to be dealt with before the original update can be undertaken.  My concern is that’s what going to happen with the NDP – their best intentions will mushroom into huge clouds and because they want to fix so many things at once, our house will not withstand the onslaught.

Jagmeet Singh seems to be truly caring… but his possible naivete over what shape our house is truly in, and what it will take to fix it, could be his downfall.

 

Well, there you have it.

I hope you gleaned something from my research if only that pre-election research is not that hard.  I do recommend going to the party platforms, not relying of pundits and other new media.  Most of them have some biases… I had to rewrite parts of today’s article to try and hide some of my own.  I’ve tried to keep it factual – you know, being equally sarcastic across all parties – but I also recommend you check out some of the platforms yourself as elections are never one-issue referenda.

No matter where you live or how old you are, my biggest message is TO VOTE!  We are so fortunate to have democratic elections in many of our developed nations so make sure you have your say.  I, personally, feel really strongly that if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch.  I do have two pet peeves around elections – people who say it doesn’t matter, it’s only one vote, so they don’t; and people who say I really think A would be great but they’ll never win so I’ll vote for B.  GRRR!

Today, my focus was seniors’ issues and you may well have more pressing issues.  I’ve provided a few links that might come in handy for other issues if you’re in Canada, but no matter where you live, do your research around your elections and the people who are vying to represent, and perhaps rule, you.

 

This article is also a podcast episode at The Two Boomer Women podcast, I’m the show host. All episodes contain pertinent info for Boomers anywhere.  (If you want to be a guest on the TBW podcast, or know someone with a message for Boomers, there is an application form at the website.)

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