TORONTO, ON October 15, 2008: In an election that was called without any compelling issue, CARP identifies at least two marginal ridings in which older voters made a difference.
In the riding of West Nova, with one of the highest average ages in the country, voters turfed out Liberal Robert Thibault in favour of his 60 year old opponent, Greg Kerr, whom Thibault had belittled as too old to be running against him. CARP took him to task and got an apology from him on air. After winning that riding with a slim 512 vote margin in 2006, Thibault was defeated by nearly 1,600 votes.
In 2006, there were about 72,000 eligible voters in Mr. Thibault’s West Nova riding, about 25% of whom would be over 60 years of age [=18,000 voters 60 years and over]. The voting participation rate for that age group in the 2004 election [according the Elections Canada] was approximately 70%. So potentially, 12,600 voters would have been affected by his remarks.
CARP also had success with issues of special interest to this age group. They lobbied for better health care including a national pharmacare policy and Health Minister Tony Clement voiced his support for a Pharmacare program early in the election when asked about CARP’s election demands. His Muskoka Parry Sound riding also has a high average age and his pledge to Pharmacare had an influence on turning his 28 vote margin in to a 10,900 vote rout.
Market Turmoil’s Impact
The real story of this election was the impact of the market turmoil which crested in the middle of an otherwise pointless campaign. But while the media was quick to profile retirees watching their retirement savings vanish before their eyes, they did not ask how that might affect their vote.
“It looks like older voters found Mr. Harper’s message of a steady hand on the tiller a comfort in the economic storm”, said Susan Eng, Vice President, Advocacy for CARP.
On the larger national stage, with the exception of Stephane Dion’s suggestion of a temporary suspension of the required RRIF withdrawal, and the official retraction of Liberal muttering about pension income splitting, none of the parties had substantial offerings to deal with the anxiety that has gripped retirees and those hoping to retire soon.
CARP’s internal polls showed that older Canadians favoured the Conservatives at a higher rate than the general populace. Across the country, the Conservatives picked up votes that the Liberals lost.
“The most important skill of a politician is to know how to count. Canadians 45 and older remain the most engaged and active voters. Seventy percent vote regularly. It remains a mystery why the politicians and media continue to wring their hands over the low voter turnout especially among younger voters when their largest, consistent voter base is the older voter” added Eng.
Elections Canada reported that voter turnout in the 2004 election was 75 per cent among 58- to 67-year-olds – those closest to retirement or retired, Averaging in all those 45 and older, voter turnout was 70 per cent. The 45-plus cohort cast nearly 9 million ballots, or 64 per cent of all votes cast. Canadians 45 and older make up 42 per cent of the population.