Creating a Progressive National Seniors Organization


Canadian Alliance of United Seniors

 Development Plan


March 2014


PO Box 4340, Station E, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B3



 “This may be the only culture that does not respect old age, or know that the elderly are the keepers of the stories, mysteries and tribal lore of the culture.”


Betty Nickerson, Canadian author



“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” 


Betty Friedan, feminist




“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

C. S. Lewis, novelist

“My goal is to do something outrageous every day.”

Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers seniors’ advocacy organization

“Aging is an inevitable process. I certainly wouldn’t want to grow younger. The older you become, the more you know; your bank account of knowledge is much richer.”

William Holden, actor

“I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.”

Albert Einstein, mathematician

CAUS Planning Committee as of April 29, 2014

The following people volunteered to help plan the development and launch of CAUS. The planning committee will be replaced by the founding board of directors after incorporation.

Committee members as of April 29, 2014:

Please note the organizational or workplace affiliation of the members does not indicate official support from those organizations for CAUS.

  • :John Anderson, former Director of Parliamentary Affairs Federal NDP
  • Walter Belyea, Labour Relations Officer, CAPE
  • Alex Cullen, former Ottawa City Councillor and MPP
  • Derrell R. Dular, Managing Director, Older Canadians Network
  • Larry Gordon, founding President/former Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada
  • Dennis Howlett, Executive Director, Canadians for Tax Fairness
  • Linda Kealey, board member, College and University Retirees Association
  • David Langille, producer of “Poor No More”, lecturer at York and Toronto universities
  • Wilbray Thiffault, former member CUPW
  • Brenda Wall, Campaigns Officer, OPSEU


  1. Canada’s rapidly aging population will change the nature of Canadian society. Today, a record 14.9% of the population are over 65 and that portion will continue to grow.
  2. More Canadians are readying to retire than readying to enter the workforce. In four years, Canada will have more seniors than children.
  3. Are government policies and programs and social norms adequate to handle this new configuration of generations? Will older Canadians have the access they need to adequate housing, health care, employment (if desired or needed) and retirement income?
  4. Many organizations, particularly at the local and provincial levels, are already working on some or all of these concerns. At the national level, active organizations include: 1) the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP), which does advocacy work and sells retail services through its Zoomer Media enterprises partnership; 2) the National Pensioners Federation, primarily a coalition of organizations, but which is open to individual members; 3) the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada, a federation of union retirees’ organizations;
  5. What we are currently missing is a national progressive grassroots seniors’ organization, democratically governed through a one-member one-vote system, open to individuals age 50 and over, who wish to help set and support a progressive agenda for Canadian seniors.
  6. Canada needs such an organization – by, for and of seniors – to fight for the progressive social policies that aging Canadians need, while embracing and celebrating the dignity of aging.

Vision and Mission

  1. We believe in building a society in which all Canadians can live their senior years in healthy, caring communities, where no one is left behind, and the dignity of aging is fully embraced and celebrated.
  2. Our mission is to help preserve the positive social advancements won by previous generations, while building a progressive society where all Canadians, as we age, can be assured of a decent quality of life.
  3. We will press for progressive, caring and community-oriented solutions to the social and economic needs of today’s seniors, and help ensure that future generations, as well as ours, have those benefits.
  4. We will promote a healthy, realistic and dignified vision of aging, and actively oppose all forms of ageism.
  5. We will advocate for programs and policies to ensure that seniors have a high-quality health care system, housing, income and pensions, and workplace rights.
  6. We will organize a powerful national grassroots force to make our needs known, our voices heard and our votes matter.


1.  Recruit and organize a substantial membership base of Canadians, age 50 and over, from coast to coast to coast to advance our agenda.

2. Develop a three-track program on advocacy, values and networks.


i.            Advocacy:  Actively organize and lobby for the policies, programs and legislation at all levels of government to address the social, economic and personal needs of older Canadians.


ii.            Values:  Create a powerful counter-force to anti-aging industry that prey on the insecurities of older people and denigrate the dignity of aging.


iii.            Networks:  Create in-person and online opportunities for older progressive Canadians to meet, interact, learn, share, socialize and campaign – both in face-to-face gatherings and online.


  1. Create a strong media presence to become the go-to organization for progressive positions on seniors’ issues both in the political and commercial realms.


                 We believe that all older Canadians need and deserve:

1.  access to affordable senior-friendly housing, whether through adequate independent-living services, affordable retirement housing or assisted living

2. a strong public health care system, including home care support, long term care,  and public dental and eye care provision for seniors with mandatory safe and secure conditions

3. a living income, where no senior will live in poverty, through

1) a pension system  that restores OAS eligibility to age 65[1], maintains and expands existing benefits such as OAS/GIS  and the CPP /QPP, and aims to assure that each senior has an annual income equal to or better than the current maximum before-tax low-income cut-off for individuals[2]

2)  enforced rights for all seniors who continue to work, including full access to benefits and protection from arbitrary ageist lay-offs and firings

4.  protection against ageism in access to all government, business, consumer and financial transactions

5.  age-friendly communities with complete services for seniors, including free public transportation

6. protection against frauds and scams targeted at seniors

Our Narrative

  1. The most important challenge is creating the simple narrative people will “get” in a matter of seconds.
  2. Commercially-driven seniors’ organizations and enterprises usually present a narrative focused on the insecurities of upper-middle class and wealthy seniors. You’re not like your parents’ generation. Sixty is the new thirty…as long as you have the money to buy the solutions (high-priced cottages, downtown condos, exotic vacations, cosmetic surgery).
  3. Many seniors or near seniors are also made to feel guilty because they are accused of not saving enough for retirement. The public spotlight has been directed away from the need for appropriate government policies and programs.
  4. Our counter-narrative needs to be:  anchored in reality, based on positive widely-shared Canadian values and framed in a progressive manner.

What Canadian seniors really want and deserve is to live in healthy, caring communities, where no one is left behind. What seniors really need are adequate housing, medical and community services, the financial means for a decent quality of life, and a culture that values the dignity of aging. What we intend to do is work together to preserve the Canada we love and build the Canada we need. This is a movement for social betterment – not a front for businesses targeting the seniors’ market.

Our Name and Brand

  1. The organization will use a descriptive name that generates an action-oriented acronym:

                                Canadian Alliance of United Seniors (CAUS)

  1. A slogan will be developed to use with the name.

Organization Structure

1. Members

aCAUS will be an individual membership organization, for people age 50+, in which all members have an equal vote in electing leadership

b. Supportive organizations can formally affiliate (see below) but have no voting power as organizations – however, members of these affiliates will be strongly encouraged to become individual members, cast votes, engage in policy discussions and stand for election

 2. Board of Directors

a. the national board will have 15 members with staggered term

b. each member will be elected for a three-year ter

c. five positions will be elected each year

d. founding board will be appointed, with individuals designated for 1, 2 and 3 year terms

3.   Phase-in Elected Board

a. individual CAUS members will begin electing the national board after one year of operation (e.g., in 2015, members elect 5 directors, and 10 appointed directors continue; in 2016, members elect another 5 positions; in 2017, the final five positions are elected  –  making all 15 positions member-elected). Note: the appointed founding directors would be free to stand for election.

4. Nominations

a. any member can self-nominate by notifying the designated election officer during the nomination period

b. with the exception of the first election, nominees must have held membership for a minimum of one year before the date voting begins

c. the board will appoint a Board Candidate Search Committee (BSC), which will seek qualified members to stand for election and help ensure a diverse list of candidates

d. the BSC Committee will ensure that there are at least 3 more candidates standing than the number of positions being filled in the election (i.e., the Committee should ensure that voters have a meaningful choice of qualified candidates)

e. the Committee may include  board members who are not up for election and other member-volunteers appointed by the board

f. a Candidate Search Committee will not endorse any candidates and those serving on the committee cannot be cited as endorsers for any candidate

g. the board will appoint an election officer to prepare a detailed procedure for nominations and official candidate statements

 5. Elections

a. for those members with email, notification of the election and all voting will take place online; members without email will be provided a phone-in or mail-in option

b.the single transferrable vote (STV), a proportional system suitable for non-party situations, will be used, with voters ranking their preferred candidates (a software program will handle vote transfer calculations)

c.each candidate will be allowed to post a statement on the website

d. candidate statements will also be sent to eligible voters by email

e. candidates will not have access to membership lists, but can choose whether to publicize their email addresses during the election

f. the election officer will be empowered to set up or manage an existing email discussion list or online forum for candidates and members to use during the election

g. if a board position becomes vacant, the board will be empowered to appoint a director to fill the position until the next election

h. the bylaws will specify whether and how members and/or the board might remove a director between elections

 6. Voter eligibility

a. new members gain voting rights 90 days after joining (i.e., become official members 90 days after the membership application is received by the national office)

 7. Local chapters

a. members in local areas may apply to form a local chapter or branch

b. chapters must work only on the mission, issues and positions of the organization, as appropriate at the local level

c. the national board is empowered to approve or disband local chapters, or to delegate that authority to a provincial council

d. local chapters will consist of those members who indicate they wish to be part of the chapter

e. each local chapter must, at a minimum, elect a chapter coordinator (or chair, or president) who will serve as the key point of contact between the chapter and other parts of the organization


8. Provincial and territory councils

a. individual members and/or local chapters in a province or territory may request approval of the national board to form a provincial or territory council; or the national board may approach members to form a provincial or territory council

b. the board may also initially approve formation of a multi-province regional or territory council (e.g., Atlantic Canada, the prairies) until membership within individual provinces or territories is sufficient to justify provincial or territory councils

c. the provincial or territory council would be the leadership body for action on provincial or territory issues or campaigns, and would help coordinate action within the province or territory on national issues and campaigns

d. the provincial and territory councils will be appointed by the national board, until such time the board determines that there are enough members in the province or territory for a meaningful and competitive election process

 9. Affiliated organizations

a.organizations working on seniors issues may choose to affiliate by making an annual donation to the organization and promoting membership by their own individual members and supporters

b. any donation from an organization may be used to fund free one-year memberships for its own members or supporters, whose names and contact information are provided to CAUS

c. affiliated organizations will be engaged for advice on policy matters and campaign strategy

d. affiliated organizations will also be invited to participate in special forums to be set up at the national and local levels to discuss issues and provide input on how to advance progressive solutions on seniors’ issues – this type of input could be formalized into an affiliates advisory council or annual forum

 10. Biennial  Policy Convention

a. The Policy convention will be held every two years. The number of delegates per region and per capita membership will be assigned by the Board for the first policy convention where a more developed formula will be discussed and adopted. Delegates will be elected by the membership on a regional basis. As well as delegates, any member may attend as an observer. Online and virtual participation options will also be considered and implemented as possible.

 11. Annual  Seniors Convention

a. The organization will hold an annual seniors’ convention which will be an educational meeting held either in Ottawa or another city or held in Ottawa and other cities simultaneously. The aim of the parliament will be to hold educational meetings and workshops and to lobby governments on seniors’ issues. Cost of attending will be held a minimum to allow any member to attend. Online and virtual participation options will also be considered and implemented as possible.

Organization Processes

  1. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for the organization meeting its corporate mission and objectives
  2. Members will set the direction of the organization in two ways: 1) electing the organization’s leadership, and 2) identifying priority issues and general strategic direction on issues.
  3. The latter could be done through an annual online discussion and polling on issue priorities, and endorsing (or not) proposals from the board, or provincial or local units, on strategic direction. However, it should be clear that members would not be engaged in political policy details (e.g., should we demand a $400 or $500 million dollar program) or rapid reaction to issue opportunities that arise quickly.
  4. Members will be encouraged – and needed – to play an active role in political advocacy, public education, and membership recruitment.
  5. Members will be encouraged to meet locally and form local chapters to discuss issues, recommend policy to the national organization, take on local activities of national campaigns and develop social and cultural activities such as, book clubs, educational meetings, theatre, music, tours, sports, etc.

 Key Supporters and Advisors

1. Expert advisors will be recruited to assist with the development of CAUS positions on key issues. These advisors may work with various committees and/or serve on advisory councils.



1. The long-term objective is to build a financially self-sustaining organization, largely supported by individual donors with an emphasis on monthly donors. Development of a solid base of individual donors will take a number of years.

2. For start-up, the organization will require start-up donations from supportive organizations and individuals.

3. Membership fees will be $10 per year. Those failing to renew their memberships will be maintained in the database as supporters, until we are otherwise instructed. But only those who have paid annual dues may cast votes in CAUS elections.

4. Incorporation of a registered charity for research and publications will be examined.


 [1] Restoring the age of eligibility for OAS to 65.

[2] Note this is $23,298 per pensioner based on the big city LICO for 2011. It would increase per annum based on this figure. At an inflationary increase the rate for a single senior would be $23,920 in June 2013. Today the maximum base (OAS and GIS) amount for a senior with no other income is only $1295 per month or $15, 540 annually for a single person and less for each member of a couple.


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