The geezer vote

Posted on September 5, 2015 in Governance Debates – Full Comment
September 4, 2015.   Margaret Atwood

You’ve heard what they call us, we folks over 65. “The geezer vote.”

Yes, we golden oldies do vote, bless our knobbly knees. I remember my mother (born 1909) describing her excitement the first time she voted; she continued to vote as long as she could see. My spouse’s grandfather, who voted for John A. Macdonald, got himself carried to the polls in a chair when he was 99 to vote for John Diefenbaker. That’s dedication!

We value our right to vote. In the early 20th century, women chained themselves to fences and were thrown into prison to get the vote. Many have fought and died to defend democratic elections: that’s one of the things we remember every Remembrance Day. Maybe we geezers can’t remember where we put our glasses, but we do remember that.

Mind you, the “geezer vote” isn’t monolithic. Those over 65 are from all political persuasions and at least three generations. If you were born between 1915 and 1935 you can remember the Depression and the Second World War, and you are likely to take a dim view of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mistreatment of vets — any vets. He loves monuments to dead soldiers, he’s just not keen on soldiers who have inconveniently remained alive. Over $1 billion earmarked for vets but never spent on helping them? We don’t understand that.

If born before 1942, you remember the war years, as well as the 1950s, the atomic bomb and the Cold War. Born after 1948 and you’re a baby boomer, with an expansive set of expectations: you had plastic toys, unlike us earlier geezers, who played with pieces of wood.

But all of us doubtless had parents who saved string and hated debt, so we tend to keep a watch on the pennies. If our parents knew that Harper changed the law in 2007 so he can borrow billions in “non-budgetary” spending without Parliament’s permission or oversight, thus ballooning the debt, they’d be rolling in their graves.

Despite our differences, us geezers have beady eyes. We fix those beady eyes on politicians, every single one of which is — to us — a kid in short pants, though some of those pants are shorter than others. What do the short-pant kids have in mind for the “geezer vote”?

One of our top concerns is our health-care system, which polls say is preferred to private alternatives by 80-90 per cent of Canadians. Our system, started in Saskatchewan by Tommy Douglas in 1946 and in Alberta by Social Credit in 1950, became near-universal in 1966 under Lester Pearson, supported by the NDP. Warning bell: Pearson was a Liberal, and we remember Harper’s vow to destroy anything built by the Libs.

Is it true that Harper has already put in place a $36 billion cut to health care? There are so many peas under the shuffle cups that we get confused, but that does seem to be the case, measured against the previous trajectory of transfers. Is hatred by one party for another, regardless of the public interest, a sound basis for public policy? Most of us think not. We want the health care we’ve paid for over many decades to be there for us when we break our hips while sliding over the ice to collect our pension cheques at the new group mailboxes we’ll be forced to use, since Harper is cancelling door-to-door delivery.

Then there’s the CBC. It was started as a national counterbalance to foreign commercial forces under R.B. Bennett, a Conservative, so it doesn’t qualify for Harper-liquidation as a Liberal thing, but it’s no secret that Harper hates it anyway.

We geezers grew up with the CBC. We remember the way it brought Canadians together coast-to-coast, though we are aware also of its recent shortcomings and short-changings. A strong majority of Canadians support the CBC; in more remote communities they depend on it. That’s its mandate: reflecting Canada to Canadians, with accessibility for all.

So, warning bell: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Harper’s so keen to sign will very likely mean the end of the CBC as a public national broadcaster, in which case broadcasting will all be commercial and most likely foreign-owned. Advertisers and foreign interests will call the shots, including the shots on political news coverage. They won’t be bothered with regional news, because it won’t pay. Is that good for any nation?

We’ve also been keeping our beady eyes on physician-assisted end-of-life, which is supported by 77 per cent of Canadians, and by 67 per cent of Conservatives. At our age we’ve been through a lot of deaths — with our grandparents, our parents and now our friends. We don’t think suffering, humiliation and wheezing your last in agony is ennobling. We’re not afraid of our dear ones trying to shove us off a cliff, but because we have lost so many dear ones ourselves and we know how hard that was, we’re afraid of them lovingly refusing to let us go.

Very few of us will avail ourselves of such assistance, but very many of us want the peace of mind that having the option would bring. Harper’s packed his death panel with those who are vigorously opposed to assisted end-of-life. We don’t want them deciding for us when we’ve had enough suffering and humiliation, with the pre-determined answer being “never.”

Oh, and also: we don’t like it that the so-called Fair Elections Act is crafted to deprive a bunch of our fellow geezers of their votes. A lot of older people don’t drive any more. Many of the elderly are in assisted living, and therefore don’t pay bills with our names and addresses on them. Why should these people be nullified?

If you want the geezer vote, short-pant kids, you should work to deserve it.

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2 Responses to “The geezer vote”

  1. Tia Newport says:

    As a student in Social Work, it it is our job to advocate for the rights and well as the privileges of people throughout communities, especially if these people are unable to advocate for themselves. Personally, I believe it is repulsive to try to discount elders (65+) of their right to vote. It was stated in the article ” If you want the Geezer vote, short-pan kids, you should work to deserve it” The elders have worked hard and some seniors have been apart of the Great Depression, World War II as well as growing up in the CBC. With that being said, seniors have made a wide contribution to the society we live in, that should be honoured not mistreated.

    There are a number of things also stated in this article that are going to effect senior citizens in a negative way, but one in particular issue caught my eye. Harper could potentially be cutting $36 billion dollars from our health care. That is going to effect everyone, especially the elderly.

    In conclusion, senior citizens play a huge role in our communities. We should be respecting and understanding of the tough times they have faced throughout their lifetime. I strongly believe the elderly deserve a right to vote. Besides, it is because of some elders that we are even able to vote in the first place.

  2. I believe it is perfectly understandable why anyone would be angry about not being able to vote. The purpose of voting for our Canadian government is to elect who we as Canadian citizens feel best represent us. “Geezers”, citizens ages 65 and older are part of our society too. Like the article states, our seniors have worked so hard towards their contributions to this society so they should be able to participate in what they have paid for. This article describes many elements of what has been done already that would affect the seniors in our country in a negative way. How is it fair that so many elements will be taken away from them. For example, one aspect is the huge cut made to health care which they will soon be needing as their bodies go through the natural aging process.

    Harper plans to cancel door-to-door mail delivery to homes which will also greatly affect seniors. What happens when someone falls on ice after attempting to collect their mail from the community mailbox and then needs a hip replacement? How will that cut affect their healthcare?

    Seniors are a part of our society just as much as anyone else is and after all of their years of hard work and dedication to our country, we should be making it as easy as possible for them to live. If we must make changes to the way our country runs, then we should allow them the ease of voting to potentially make a difference.


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