Courtenay-Alberni’s first MP gave his first full speech in the House of Commons Friday calling for a national seniors’ strategy.
“Having the highest median age for seniors in my riding, I see firsthand the results of not having a seniors’ strategy, and not having a strategy for dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Johns said in Ottawa.
Asked afterwards by The NEWS to elaborate on what exactly a “seniors’ strategy” would entail, Johns referred to the NDP’s National Strategy on Aging in Canada.
The eight-page document calls on the federal government to: restore the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to 65 and raise GIS rates; negotiate with the provinces to improve the Canada Pension Plan (CPP); amend the Employment Equity Act to include ageism, and launch an awareness campaign to dispel the prejudice many older workers face; and limit ATM transaction fees to no more than $0.50, and ensure that all banks offer at least one low-cost credit card with an interest rate no higher than five per cent above the prime lending rate.
Moreover, the strategy proposes government work with provinces to ensure that the growing demand for doctors and nurses specializing in gerontology is met, work with the provinces and territories to develop more flexible housing options for seniors, create a seniors advocate and take a systemic approach to fighting elder abuse.
“The number of seniors in Canada is set to double by 2036,” said Johns. “We need to put plans in place now to ensure that we are ready for this dramatic increase. No one should have to grow old in poverty, insecurity and isolation.”
Qualicum Beach is the oldest community in Canada with a median age of 63.9 as of the 2011 census.
Salvation Army manager Lisa Clason and SOS executive director Renate Sutherland both said this year the number of seniors accessing their services is on the rise.
Johns speech in Ottawa also touched on economic and environmental challenges facing the riding.
“Small business is the core of our economy and the natural leader of innovation. We have opportunities to invest in innovation,” he said in the House.
“Often the wealth of our country starts in rural communities, but it leaves rural communities. We need to have shared prosperity with aboriginal people, and with all of our communities.”
Johns mentioned his great grandfather had worked at a paper mill in Ocean Falls which was then a town of 4,000 people but today its population has sunk to only 75.
“I do not want to see that happen to any more coastal communities,” Johns said.
He said climate change is already having significant impacts on Vancouver Island, and left unchecked it poses serious threats to B.C.’s environment and the economy.