AS EVERY POLITICIAN knows, old age pensioners are a potent political force. They number about 10 percent of the electorate, but that is a gross understatement of their strength. Their real political power is not their own numbers so much as their middle-aged children, the 5,000,000 Canadians between 40 and 65 who have known, either directly or through the experience of contemporaries, the responsibility of caring for aged parents. This can be a daunting financial burden, and the middle-aged are as anxious as the elderly that the state rather than the individual should carry it.
This is the political thrust that, in a dozen years, has not merely extended old age security to every Canadian without a means test, but has increased it from $40 to $75 a month. In our opinion the thrust will also be sufficient to raise the rate again, some time between now and the next federal election, from $75 to $100 a month.
We ourselves have not the slightest objection to this prospect. We have always been in favor of a decent old age pension for all, and we still are. But we do wish to sound one quiet note of warning to a vociferous minority among the million pensioners, who lately have been feeling their political strength and perhaps over-estimating it.
If our own mail is any guide, this minority’s instant reaction to any proposed public expenditure, however worthy, is: “How dare you consider this outlay when you won’t even give another $25 a month to the old age pensioner?” The implication of this is that the elderly are a first charge upon a producing society, and that no money should be spent upon anything else until their latest demand has been met in full.
Surely this is going a step too far. Canada already does better by her senior citizens than any other country in the world, and has every intention of doing better yet. But to tell us that we must not do anything, must not spend a penny for any other purpose whatever, is less likely to achieve the objective than to dissipate the sympathy that is essential to the pensioners’ hopes and purposes.
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