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Answering the mail

The NDP wants us to imagine holding government accountable for secure pension and housing, timely access to public services, opportunities for self-fulfillment and secure public health care.


DARTMOUTH (6 October 2005) -- AT THE END of September 2005, the NDP mailed out a card which trumpeted its "plan" for Seniors. Something styled "Seniors Charter of Canada" is to be tabled by the NDP in parliament this fall. It will affirm that seniors have a fundamental right to 'a fulfilling life with dignity, respect and security.' The NDP wants us to imagine holding government accountable for secure pension and housing, timely access to public services, opportunities for self-fulfillment and secure public health care.

Of course, it is a good thing if the Martin Liberals can be held accountable and if the NDP does something for seniors. While seniors face most of the same difficulties as the rest of Canadians-such as threats to income security, housing and health care-they are faced with worsening health, physical and mental deficits, and fixed incomes which are quite often below the poverty line. Despite senior's discounts on such things as food and travel, seniors face increasing costs for such things as drugs and nursing care. For many there is a struggle to maintain an independent life in their own homes, while for others it is a question of learning to cope with institutional care. with a large ageing population of "baby boomers, there is no wonder that the NDP wants to be seen to be paying attention to the needs of seniors. So now they have come out with their manifesto or "Seniors' Charter."

All that is missing is some sort of guarantee. How is the government supposed to be held accountable for the loss of pensions from Stelco or Air Canada for example? They simply claim that this is private business and, therefore none of their concern, as they have done. Or they could take over the responsibilities for pension fund contributions abnegated by the companies under the bankruptcy protection of the Companies Creditor's Arrangement Act (CCAA), and other legislation, in which case would they not be simply paying the rich out of state coffers and letting the truants off the hook. Of course the Liberal government is involved in such attacks on working Canadians, and its real aim is restricted to benefiting a rich minority. If the NDP charter passes, it will be with the help of the Liberal Party, and, therefore it will become the Liberal charter. It will have the same status as the Liberal plan for housing or the Liberal plan for health care.

During the last election the Liberals promised the construction of so many thousands of new low cost housing units. They presented this to the electorate as one big election give-away. They did not present what the problem is in housing. Nor did they lead discussion on how it should be solved. They simply declared that they would budget for so many low cost housing units. Take it or leave it. Where has this housing promise gone? Have the Liberals and NDP solved the problem of homelessness as it manifests itself in Canadian cities? No.

"Canadians have the fundamental democratic right to fully participate in making the decisions which affect their lives," said Hardial Bains, late leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party (MLPC), in his 1994 brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resource Development.

"Therefore, no decisions should be made as concerns social programs before submitting them first for the approval of those whose lives they will affect. The consultation process which is undertaken must, therefore, not be used, as has been the case in the past, as a means to legitimize a pre-determined agenda." (See www.mlpc.ca)

The NDP's charter does reflect the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights which was issued some time ago and which Canada signed on to. This covers all people, not just seniors. But instead of submitting them to the people for discussion and approval, we have mass marketing -- a card in the mail.

"Social programs necessarily deal with these areas which concern basic human rights to health, education, welfare, social insurance, affordable housing, pensions, and so on," Mr Bains went on to say. He argued that everyone has rights to these things by virtue of being human, and that government cannot look upon the funding of such programs as mere expenses which they can pare down to reduce the deficit, but must look upon it as important social investments which guarantee the rights of all members of society in accord with the UN covenant. This conflicts sharply with the interests which the Liberals represent.

The NDP has no plan for seniors, only a pious declaration of what we should aspire to -- a declaration that could be embraced by almost any political party. It says nothing about how such objectives could be reached. Just like the Liberals, the NDP doesn't present any analysis of what is blocking the realisation of these aspirations for seniors, or how such obstacles could be overcome. The NDP's "plan to stand up for seniors" has a very hollow ring to it, and Canadians deserve substance.

*Charles Spurr is a candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party in Dartmouth


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