Martin C. Barry
In its latest annual report, the Laval/Laurentian chapter of one of Quebec’s largest lobby groups for retired and pre-retired people criticizes the provincial Liberal government’s austerity plan and says Quebec should be doing more to level the field between rich and poor rather than contributing to social inequalities.
Critical of government
Members of the local chapter of the Association Québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées met at Laval’s Place des aînés on Curé Labelle Blvd. in Chomedey on May 31. In the annual report tabled by AQDR chapter president Pierre Lynch, he wrote that AQDR Laval-Laurentides believes firmly “that the Quebec government has the means to do otherwise, it’s a question of choice.
“We urge them to adopt progressive measures that favour a better sharing of the wealth and which contribute to creating a more just Quebec, more egalitarian and more solidary, rather than increasing the social inequalities,” he continued.
According to Lynch, AQDR Laval-Laurentides has joined with other like-minded organizations to participate in several demonstrations, most notably one that took place last May 1 with 500 people, which he said was the largest of its kind held in Laval to date for that purpose.
Community groups impacted
Lynch told some two dozen branch members who attended the annual general meeting that one of the main impacts of the Liberal government’s cutbacks has been a drastic reduction in grants and subsidies paid to community groups, and the AQDR is not alone in having suffered from this.
“There are several that have closed,” he said. “We continue to exist, but the times are hard and we can no longer allow ourselves to have just any kind of activity we please and we have to watch our expenses closely.”
The AQDR Laval-Laurentides annual report states that in the past year the organization made the rounds of federal MPs and provincial MNAs to raise their awareness of the financial difficulties faced by many senior citizens and the organizations that represent them. The most notable problem they face, it said, is chronic under-financing for home care services.
Commenting on the Liberal austerity program during the meeting, Lynch noted that the AQDR’s efforts haven’t generated much reaction so far from certain provincial ministers. “I think they’re holding onto their money to get themselves re-elected in two years,” he said.
Remember on election day
“I hope you’re all going to have memorized at some point the fact that when they’re trying to be re-elected, it will be important to remember what they cut from community organizations. They think we’re going to forget it because two, three or four years will have gone by, but it’ll be important to remember it.”
In an interview with the Laval News, Lynch said most cuts made by the provincial government to grants paid to community groups “are unacceptable. They are in the process of strangling community organizations.” But apart from community groups, Lynch said the government’s cuts to health care in particular are impacting the public in general. “Presently we’re not getting the proper financing in Laval and it’s the same thing in the Laurentians,” he said. “We’re not getting our proper share of the financing at this point.”
Pressure is increasing
In the conclusion to the AQDR Laval-Laurentides’ 2015-2016 report, Lynch writes that “the repeated attacks on the rights acquired by senior citizens over time, the many reductions in health services, the systematic increase in taxes and tariffs as well as significant modifications in public retirement pensions have multiplied over the past year.
“In this context, the AQDR has had to double up its efforts in its vigilance mission in defence of the rights of the senior population. I think we have been up to this challenge and that we have been able to fulfill our mission. Rest assured that AQDR Laval-Laurentides will fiercely pursue the defence of the rights of senior persons and that we are making all efforts needed for the realization of our mission.”