Seniors’ issues a priority for NDP MP Rachel Blaney

Town hall meeting on seniors’ issues Jan. 21 at d’Esterre House in Comox



Judging by the response of the public, seniors’ issues appear to be the top priority in the North Island-Powell River constituency.

That is why NDP MP Rachel Blaney has initiated a series of town hall meetings tailored for the older members of her riding.

“We know that by 2036, the number of seniors could reach anywhere between 9.9 to 10.9 million people,” Blaney said Thursday in a media telephone conference.

“We’ve heard for many years a growing concern of the aging population in Canada.”

The New Democrats have tabled a motion and requested a National Seniors’ Strategy that would commit the federal government to a long-term plan, working with provinces and territories to ensure an adequate quality of life for seniors — now and in the future.

A growing issue, she said, is poverty among seniors. Particularly startling is the impact on women, many of whom didn’t work outside the home, leaving them with fewer resources.

“What we’ve heard across the riding is about men aging, being put into a seniors’ home, and 90 per cent of their pension paying for that, which means women are living off 10 per cent of the pension,” Blaney said. “I was startled by how many people, especially women, were having to legally separate from their partners to get 50 per cent of the pension.”

Regarding ongoing concerns about health care, Blaney said former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper promised transfers to provinces and territories would be left at six per cent, but are being reduced to three per cent. She said, too, there was no increase to home care in the 2016 budget.

Blaney will be hosting a town hall meeting on seniors’ issues at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at d’Esterre House in Comox.

Cabinet shuffle

Blaney is encouraged by a recent cabinet shuffle that resulted in a new minister of democratic institutions (Karina Gould), who looks after the democratic reform file.

“There’s been a lot of frustration around the democratic reform survey, which is not very scientifically-based,” Blaney said. “People are feeling it doesn’t really ask questions they want to have asked.”

She said the previous minister, Maryam Monsef, had some strong words against the committee for electoral reform that produced a 300-plus page document based on research. It concluded, for instance, that online voting is not secure enough for a national election.

“What we’re hearing across Canada and across the riding is, ‘We want a more proportional system,’” Blaney said.

Poverty hot topic

Other concerns include broadband accessibility, tanker traffic/oil spills and the need for a National Poverty Strategy.

In December, Blaney tabled her first private members’ bill — the Right to Housing — which intends to pressure governments to invest in affordable housing, provide more housing options to Canadians, and increase the accountability of landlords and governments.

“We know that proper housing is a human right,” Blaney said. “And when housing needs are met, it does provide for some prosperousness and a stronger community.”