So many issues at election time fall by the wayside, and no one knows that better than Carol Pickup.
The former nurse and municipal politician (she spent 18 years on Saanich council and as a CRD director) is one of the very few seniors advocates in Greater Victoria. With an open door, Pickup is on the front lines with the Seniors Entitlement Service out of the Quadra Village Community Centre.
She has a first-hand account of the seniors’ issues that she hopes will earn more than a night’s worth of consideration at the upcoming Greater Victoria Seniors all-candidates meeting on Saturday, Oct. 3.
“This is where it hits the fan. People who come in here are very needy and need a lot of support,” Pickup said.
The needs are simple, though they can only be answered through a complexity of actions.
It starts with teeth, eyes and ears.
“Senior poverty leads to the inability for dental work, hearing aids, proper nutrition and affordable housing,” Pickup said. “Not just housing but appropriate housing. This is a government responsibility, not a municipal one.”
The CRD Housing Corporation and Housing Trust Fund, and the many church-led assisted living homes in the region, are examples 1A and 1B of municipalities taking on responsibilities that shouldn’t be theirs, she added.
“I applaud them, I applaud the work [Victoria] Mayor Lisa Helps is doing, but the responsibility that’s being downloaded from the federal and provincial governments doesn’t match the tax money coming in.”
The proof is in the active living guides for each municipality, which are packed with healthy living programs for seniors.
In many situations, the seniors that come to the Seniors Entitlement Office are in a “crisis,” Pickup said.
Last week Pickup attended court with a client. She said you can almost set your clock by the next senior who will walk in citing a dire need.
“From all over. We have Oak Bay seniors, it’s probably surprising there are so many low-income seniors in Oak Bay, not just Esquimalt [which has the highest number of low-income seniors in the region].”
Even more troubling is the future of the Seniors Entitlement Office, with its 10 trained seniors advocates, which is open two days a week. If it wasn’t for the arrangement made with the Quadra Village Community Centre (previously the Blanshard Community Centre) the office wouldn’t exist.
“They give us offices, let us use their reception and supply our phone lines,” Pickup said.
Saanich couple Max and Clara Halber started the Seniors Entitlement Office on a mere $8,500 grant from the federal New Horizons For Seniors funding in 2006.
The Greater Victoria Seniors Old Age Pension Organization (Branch 191) and the Victoria Council of Canadians are sponsoring the forum.
Frances Litman of the Green Party, Randall Garrison of the NDP and David Merner of the Liberal Party will attend the Oct. 3 forum.
The Greater Victoria Seniors’ all-candidates meeting is set for Saturday, Oct. 3 from 1 to 3 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church Parish Hall, 785 Burnside Rd. West (corner of McKenzie and Burnside).