This is an opportunity for ordinary people to be heard.
We asked six people to be our citizen commentators during the campaign. Each chose an issue they believe in passionately. You'll hear from them between now and the week of the election, and we encourage you to react by adding your comments.
Neil is a freelance journalist with extensive experience in television and radio, as well as writing for government.
September 16, 2011
When you have an older home you're always dealing with the spending decisions of previous owners, much like every government that takes office. This week our kitchen sink began leaking. We discovered the previous owners never replaced a section of old pipe that connected the more modern pipes leading to the basement because it was hidden behind a wall and hard to get at.
It was a messy, expensive repair, but this aging infrastructure reminded me of another problem facing Manitoba: we've got a lot of older people in this province and their numbers are growing faster than the number of younger people.
Back in 2004 when Premier Greg Selinger was the NDP's finance minister he co-authored a report http://ceric.ca/cjcd/archives/v3-n2/article1.pdf that noted, "Between 1996 and 2002, the number of people (in Manitoba) aged 55 and older grew by 6.4 per cent, while the number of people aged 15 to 54 grew by only 1.5 per cent".
He goes on to note how growth in the number of older Manitobans will continue to outpace the growth of those younger. Manitoba is not alone in this.
The year 2011 was recognized as the first year baby boomers (those born 1946 to 1964) across Canada began to reach the retirement age of 65, even if some of them were not ready for that life-changing event.
Human Resources Canada http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/lp/spila/wlb/aw/09overview_analysis.shtml has outlined the challenges of this demographic shift. Among these, it notes more people will not be retiring because they can't afford to retire. This means more employers may need to accommodate people who have an increasing range of special needs. Nevertheless a large number of people will still retire. This will cause another problem in that employers will lose experienced older workers who can't be replaced easily because of the difficulty in recruiting and retaining younger workers.
So what have we heard about this issue from the political parties so far? Not much. We've heard plenty about health care, debt reduction, taxes and crime, even about paving back lanes but no specifics about this huge demographic shift.
Looking at the party websites I see the NDP presents promises to seniors as if all will be leaving the workforce. The Conservatives outline job creation and training initiatives but nothing targeted at an aging workforce. The Liberals say they will release more details later in the campaign but so far, promises to older workers haven't appeared in their platform.
As a Manitoban who turned 55 this year I am in that bracket facing some crucial decisions, including whether I can afford training and education for a late-life career shift. I'm wondering if this province's parties are treating the issue of older workers like a home repair best left to the next person.