January 9, 2014

By Margaret H. Johnson

I heard recently on a televised news report that the future is in deep peril because of the ominous aging population. You know, the group that threatens the financial security of the future.


Once again I am surprised not to hear any sort of rebuttal. The television reports this point of view without any critique or alternate perspective.

It’s funny how both young and old people are treated in a similar way. You see, young people – need a job. To get a job they have to go to school. This costs money. A great deal of money. They have to borrow a mountain of student loan debt to get the degree or diploma. And, there is no guarantee of employment – and in many cases lives are ruined because of a student loan. In this scenario, similar to seniors, no alternative thinking is presented.

Everyone nods their heads as if this is an immutable truth. No-one really takes on the issue of the high cost of the post-secondary school institutions – that young people from middle and lower income families cannot afford to go – so they take on impossible levels of debt because, without the official ticket or stamp of school approval, there is little hope of ever securing a well-paying job. i.e. they have no choice.

Post-Secondary education costs sooner or later must be addressed. We have to find more affordable ways for young people and the cash strapped taxpayer who partially funds many of the post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges have to change. Recently the notion of MOCCs popped up. This means massive online open classes where not only can anyone enrol in classes like these, but they are offered free of cost and on the Internet. This is a positive first step and shows that it can be done.

The same is true with seniors. What are the experts and governments worried about? Clearly, the cost of health care, of hospitals, of medicines, of palliative care, of doctors and so on must be addressed at some time too. It’s not the senior’s fault that health care is so expensive.

With respect to pensions and improving the future for all Canadians, a good first step might be to abolish the Senate and all of those lucrative benefits. And then begin looking at different ways of operating governments, tax subsidies for corporations and so on.

Today, in British Columbia we see the process of death by a thousand cuts being implemented by the provincial government’s removal of a long standing policy of recognition and respect for seniors  - allowing seniors over 65 years of age ride a BC Ferry for free.

This is not a nod of respect for seniors. It tells seniors that we are dispensable and our life-long service to society and our communities is no longer worthy of recognition. Moreover, it shows wilful disregard to seniors on limited incomes who cannot budget or afford a 50% increase in a transportation cost item. Tough luck for those poor souls, right.

Or perhaps they don’t care about the financial hardships many seniors face. As reported in the Vancouver Sun the Minister of the Crown boldly announces his insensitivity to seniors when he announced, “I didn’t run for office to shy away from tough decisions.”

Blame it on the seniors seems to work for some in governments and quite a few financial experts. Maybe we should change the financial experts and those in government that cannot see the forest for the trees.