Seniors also have a major stake in the outcome of the current provincial election, not just for themselves and their own lives but also for the future lives and prospects of their children and grandchildren. The majority of today’s seniors grew up in a society replete with hope and expanding opportunities, and with a reasonable expectation that their children would do even better than they had. That hope has been largely dissipated by today’s harsher economy in which most young people believe that their lives will be harder than those of their parents. The majority of today’s workers have little or no prospect of ever having the kind of long-term secure jobs with benefits and company pensions which most seniors once considered the norm. Ever cheaper and more capable robots and automation will further reduce employment opportunities while increasing the share of wealth held by corporations and well-capitalized individuals. All of which raises serious questions about how unequal our society can be allowed to become. As you will see elsewhere on this site, the Liberal government has mounted a wide variety of initiatives to help restore some equality of opportunity. By contrast, a PC government under Doug Ford would most likely have vastly different priorities, including tax cutting which will serve to further accelerate income inequality. Do we really want to leave our children and grandchildren with an evermore unequal society like that of our neighbours to the south, a society steeped in anger and violence and where your best hope is to somehow get wealthy enough to live apart in a safe, gated community and receive good health care?
The current government has acted in numerous ways to better meet the needs of today’s seniors. It was the first to create a ministry dedicated solely to seniors, ensuring that their voices are heard at Queen’s Park. More specific actions include:
- Aging with Confidence, a new, multi-faceted action plan to support seniors at all stages of life, so that they can remain independent, healthy and active, safe and socially connected;
- A historic expansion of OHIP+, which will provide everyone aged 65 and over with completely free access to over 4,400 prescription drugs;
- The Seniors’ Healthy Home Program, with up to $750 annually to support seniors aged 75 or older so they can live independently in their homes for longer;
- $15 million to support “naturally occurring” retirement communities (a new model of care called “Oasis”, that was pioneered here in Kingston, combats loneliness, brings services directly to seniors in their existing homes in buildings with a high concentration of seniors, and gives them more autonomy over their own lives than would be possible in an institutional setting);
- More volunteering opportunities that connect seniors and youth, fostering learning and mentorship while reducing older people’s risk of social isolation;
- 5,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years and 15 million more hours of nursing, personal support and therapeutic care annually for residents in long-term care homes; and
- A free annual high-dose influenza vaccine, targeted to better protect seniors.
It’s clear from what Doug Ford has said that he is a populist politician, which has serious implications for what we can expect of him. Should Mr. Ford become Premier, his priority will be cost cutting and tax cuts, which will ultimately hurt seniors, as well as move our Ontario society more in the direction of its more unequal U.S. counterparts. If you don’t want that, please refer to my post on strategic voting for some ideas on what you can do to make a difference. If you’re one of those who has been put off by the multi-year conservative campaign of pervasive distortions and negativity directed at Premier Wynne, please read this very thoughtful Toronto Star article on the Wynne legacy and consider my analysis of those depictions, bearing in mind that it was primarily written for the benefit of Liberals who have likewise been influenced by such views. Or, if Mr. Ford’s misleading sky-is-falling depiction of Ontario’s debt load has you worried, I would invite you to check the facts which point to a much more rational perspective on the debt numbers.
And if you have followed some of the above links, you’ll realize that, like many populist politicians before him, what Mr. Ford says often has a very tenuous connection with the truth. Should that be contrary to your values, please consider voting instead for someone who is always truthful, always respectful to everyone she encounters (even her opponents), always listens, is experienced and effective, and is always working for the betterment of her community, not herself. That someone is Sophie Kiwala, whom you could actually take pride in introducing to your children and grandchildren.