Moses Znaimer On The Power Of Older Voters, Doctor-Assisted Suicide, Pot And Saving Health Care From Aging Boomers

"Every generation or two kids get momentarily enthused ... but generally it's people in our generation that actually vote rigorously."

In Moses Znaimer's younger years, the broadcasting legend founded City TV and MuchMusic, providing an outlet for the voices and interests of underrepresented urban communities and Canadian youth.

Now 73, Znaimer is doing the same for a demographic he has dubbed "Zoomer," baby boomers and older seniors born prior to 1965 who, like himself, are getting older while defying geriatric stereotypes.

Znaimer runs the Zoomer media empire, which includes a magazine and TV network, as well as being president of CARP, the organization formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Person, but now advocates for a "new vision of aging in Canada," because, well, nobody retires anymore.

The seniors spokesperson visited the Huffington Post Canada studio to talk about why everyone is wooing older voters, discuss election issues from marijuana and health care to retirement income inequality, and predict a winner of the federal election.

Interview continues after slideshow

Moses Znaimer Through The Years

Why Older Voters Matter

One of the reason I'm so buoyant is that all the major parties have made our gang excellent offers. The penny has finally dropped. For years now, it feels like an eternity, I've been telling anybody who would listen that we're the gang that actually does the voting. Every generation or two kids get momentarily enthused about Obama in the United States or a Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Canada, maybe Justin this time around, but generally it's people in our generation that actually vote rigorously.

Election Platforms and Seniors





Our gang of zoomers represents about 40 per cent of the population, but they overweight when it comes to voting and our younger cohorts underweight when it comes to voting. When you add those two factors, we actually represent 63 per cent of the vote.

We could actually run the country. If we voted as a bloc on bloc issues we could control the ballot box.

Why Seniors Vote Conservative

I think it's natural for people, as they get older, they become a little more conservative. That seems to be appropriate. But this is a new world and it's no longer the day that you drink the same coffee that your parents drank and their parents before them. And I think the same holds true of politics. All of that has brought all of the political parties to come to us one after another.

Marijuana As Election Issue

The Conservatives were using it as a form of a club and I think that's where the campaign perhaps may have gone astray on issues of medical marijuana and a number of social issues where they're not in sync with even their putative preferred older cohorts.

It's the boomers, your parents, who have had personal experience with marijuana. You can have a toke or two, you can have a laugh, eat a good meal and not wake up in the gutter.

These are also the people who know that it can be useful in certain kinds of maladies and are open to marijuana as a medical instrument.

Retirement and Old Age Security

There are many good and plausible reasons to push back the day of retirement, the simplest one being that we're all living longer, and we're living considerably longer. We're not just eking out another year or two. We're growing longevity in the human family by literally leaps and bounds.

I think it's inevitable that [the retirement age] will eventually go to 67, notwithstanding that if the NDP gets in, they promise to roll it back to 65. I also think it's inevitable that it will get pushed to 70 because we're not dying at 65, we're living most of us, at full function, well into the 80s.

It's not just a matter of when you start collecting but how long will you continue to be collecting [old age security].

Affording Aging Boomers

First thing we have to underline is that not everybody who goes over 65 is decrepit, in decay and dying. We continue to live, we continue to work, we continue to pay taxes, we continue to contribute. Some of us are working because frankly we need the money, many of us are working because we want the engagement and we want to give back.

The realization generally dawning on society is that retirement is what kills you, and I am the unusual president of a retirement organization who advocates against retirement.

It's not a question of everybody suddenly placing unbearable demands on the national exchequer with their healthcare requirement or their requirements for financial security. We will all be contributing for an additional 15 or 30 years longer than our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Saving Health Care

You don't have to spend the last two years in a high-tech hospital wired in a million ways to machines that are keeping you alive at a cost of a $1000 or $2000 or $3000 a day. You can be at home, surrounded by your family, living where most people want to be in any case. This requires a readjustment of investment from trouble care to life care. That's not only more palatable, it's infinitely less expensive.

All these adjustments will inevitably come about and they will begin to deal with these theoretical problems that people have legitimate right to be concerned about.

But we're not going to see the great tsunami overwhelm society and take it down.

The Need for Pension Reform

We'd like to see an expansion in the Canadian Pension Plan. It is what it is today, it's well-managed, it's reliable. But it was only ever designed to capture about a quarter or a third of an individual's typical income. We know that our Canadian world is divided between those people lucky enough to either work for a central government or in a large corporation that was able to develop private pension assets.

But we have an irreducible number of Canadians who don't benefit that way. We think the best way to help them is to see an expansion of the CPP. It's an effective instrument.

Medically-Assisted Dying / Doctor-Assisted Suicide

My stance is I'm for it. We [at Zoomer] have taken polls and those who have chosen to reply to our polls have been overwhelmingly in support, to a level of 80 per cent. Interestingly enough, a number almost identical to the number that endorse medical marijuana and, in fact, legalization of marijuana.

Those on the other side evoke the slippery slope argument and conjure up all kinds of horror shows, but it is the very act of making this available that minimizes its use. Once people know that they can reach for this if they are in extremis, they don't do it. It's not having it available, and the fear that you might not be able to do anything about it when you feel you need to, that actually drives people to desperate measures.

These are the people who throw themselves off buildings or in front of subway trains. If a humane exit is available, we know from the experience in jurisdictions around the world where it's been implemented, that only a really tiny percentage of people use it.

Predicting The Winner

Clearly Justin [Trudeau] is on a roll, but we do have this feature in our system of first past the post, so it's not just a matter of that gross number, but where those numbers are concentrated, what seats can be won and what people secretly do when they step into that booth.

So I'm not one to count Mr. Harper out.

Joshua Ostroff is a senior editor for HuffPost Canada.

In Photos: Canada Election 2015