As Trudeau Looks Ahead to Next Election, CARP Rates His Government’s Record on Seniors Issues
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — seen here heading to a U.N. meeting in New York last month — could be preparing for an election as early as next year. Photo: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick
The announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last weekend that he will once again lead the Liberals in the next federal election not only touched off a flurry of speculation of when Canadians might be headed to the polls, but also a reflection on what his party has accomplished since 2015 — especially when it comes to improving the lives of older Canadians.
“When the election comes, when Canadians need to make a consequential choice in this consequential moment, it will be the honour of my life to lead us through it, and continue building a better future,” Trudeau said at the Liberal convention, which was held in early May in Ottawa.
Election Likely in 2024
The fact that Trudeau seemed to be very much in campaign mode at the recent Liberal lovefest provoked conjecture that an election was nigh. Although he doesn’t have to go to the people until 2025, the prevailing consensus and polls indicate we’ll be heading to the polls a lot sooner.
Perhaps sensing the moment, the opposition has begun to step up its attack on the Liberal leader and his government’s record. “After eight years of Trudeau, everything feels broken,” says Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, echoing a familiar charge that’s often levelled against governments that have been in power for an extended period.
The Liberals have indeed been struggling recently, with several issues pushing Trudeau’s approval ratings on a downward trend. His biggest headache is the Chinese election interference crisis that just won’t go away. After initially denying that foreign interference was a big concern, his government had no choice but to expel a Chinese diplomat who was reportedly involved in the intimidation efforts against Conservative MP Michael Chong.
Besides this burgeoning scandal, voters are expressing concern that, after eight years of excessive Liberal spending, the opposition Conservatives might be a better guardian for our finances than Liberals.
Record on Seniors Issues
At the convention, the Liberals focussed on their record of investing in the middle class, building an economy that works for everyone and protecting the environment.
It’s no wonder that older Canadians are feeling excluded says Bill VanGorder, chief operating officer and chief policy officer at CARP (a partner of ZoomerMedia). “The perception from our members is that this government isn’t paying enough attention to their concerns.”.
This hasn’t always been true. During his first election, the young Liberal leader paid a memorable visit to CARP’s headquarters in Toronto, where he unveiled his seniors strategy, which may have helped earn him support from older voters who, until then, had always checked Conservative on their ballots.
And when the Liberals came to power in 2015, they drew rave reviews for delivering on two major senior-friendly election promises — enhancing the CPP benefit and lowering the age of eligibility for seniors to 65.
And Trudeau’s 2018 appointment of Filomena Tassi as seniors minister (not to mention undertaking a sit-down interview with Zoomer magazine) evoked hope that she would use her knowledge and enthusiasm to provide a strong voice for older Canadians at Liberal cabinet meetings.
Off the Radar
Since winning the 2019 election, however, this huge demographic has seemingly fallen off the radar in Ottawa. VanGorder notes that, while the government likes to trumpet its accomplishments for seniors, recent legislative gains have been limited to: a 10 per cent hike to OAS payments (for those aged 75 and older) and a one-time $300 COVID payment ; the “grocery rebate” (worth an average of $225 annually per senior); and the implementation of legislation to protect retirees whose pension plan goes bankrupt.
While these moves have been welcome, VanGorder expresses concern that Ottawa’s inflation-relief response has been “underwhelming at best” and suggests that they “don’t nearly address the economic pain that seniors are feeling, and fail to reach those who need help most.”
He speculates that Ottawa’s seeming disinterest might partly be due to the ineffectiveness of the last two senior ministers — Deb Schulte and Kamal Khera — neither of whom have pushed the senior agenda as aggressively as did their successor.
There’s no doubt that Liberal party strategists have noted this unrest on the part of older Canadians and will address it in time for the next election. Because, as VanGorder notes, failure to listen to the needs of this massive voting bloc — the largest in the country — may have a “surprising effect on election results.”