Seniors’ issues take centre stage at candidates forum

When Burga Black’s children bickered she would put them in their room, and the 86-year-old was not shy to point out there was a lot of bickering going on in Ottawa.

Burga Black jots down a question while Lawrence Slind (right) watches the proceedings at the federal all-candidates meeting at the Penticton Seniors Drop-In Centre Tuesday.

When Burga Black’s children bickered she would put them in their room, and the 86-year-old was not shy to point out there was a lot of bickering going on in Ottawa.

The Penticton resident was one of about 80 at the all-candidates forum on Tuesday held at the South Main Seniors Drop-In Centre and sponsored by the South Okanagan Seniors Wellness Society and Penticton Western News.

Green Party candidate Dan Bouchard agreed with Burga, stating there are real challenges in the 21st century including improving health, environment and economy that “cannot wait for the political bickering to sort out.”

“I am here today to help bridge that gap, to show this audience that our age group has so much to offer and are willing to stand up and be counted, that we are articulate, that we are caring. We desire with all our hearts the skill sets necessary to save ourselves and this planet from the imminent hardships we are just beginning to experience.” said Bouchard.

“I am here today to tell you we need you and we can’t do it without you. You are the only group that has the time, money, resources and skill sets to help us turn this thing around. I am here today to offer you a new choice, one that will help bridge the political gaps and provide a co-operative and new vision in the House of Parliament.”

Conservative candidate Dan Albas stressed the importance of his party continuing the work of their economic action plan.

“A strong economy helps us to pay for all the benefits and all the programs. I want to reiterate that a Conservative government will continue to be here for Canada, to be listening to the concerns of the country, to bring all the best ideas forward, presenting them to the House, and continue to stand up for all the things we agree with, without cutting provincial transfers or individual transfers with a low tax environment,” said Albas.

Albas also noted Canada is fortunate to have a strong health care system, and the budget introduced by the Conservatives guaranteed wait times on certain surgeries that are high priority and would continue to implement health care transfer increases of six per cent annually.

When it comes to voting, it is a question of priorities stated NDP candidate David Finnis. He said he is proud to belong to a party with a leader (Jack Layton) who has tried to make Parliament work, share opinions and find long-term environmental solutions instead of one-off programs.

“We in the New Democrat Party want to improve health care, bring in home care, bring in Pharmacare, increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement, strengthen the Canada Pension Plan. We want to deal with the issues of addiction and homelessness, not by putting those people in prison, that has far, far greater costs than using a detox centre,” said Finnis.

Liberal candidate John Kidder asked the crowd to vote for him because he is the most qualified and would be the most effective candidate. He contended that a partisan Conservative government would not be able to unite the country.

“There is a lot of daylight, as we say, between the Conservatives and the Liberals. There is not really very much between us, the NDP and the Greens. Together we can get back to the kind of politics that made this country great,” said Kidder. “We have to come together for Canada, rather than be continuously divided.”

There are three things independent candidate Sean Upshaw said he has heard from the voters while door knocking: they are concerned about the economy, the ethics of the government and seniors issues. While he said he is confident the country has recovered from the economic downturn, he is concerned about the ethics across all platforms.

“The reality is that while we continue to send individuals to Ottawa simply because they are for our party, we will end up sending the wrong people to Ottawa. As a result, we will have this bickering, back-fighting and all the things that take place that stall government and ignore people’s real concerns. The reality is that we need to take stock and look at that and say, ‘hey maybe we need to be sending people to Ottawa, people that actually really care about other people,’” said Upshaw.

Independent candidate Dr. Dietrich Wittel slammed the Conservative government for selling off raw resources to foreign interests that he said caused the Canadian dollar to soar, and in turn negatively effected the Canadian manufacturing sector.

“I want for you to have safe food, safe water and I want you to have resources for your grandchildren and mine too. I am running on my record. I get up when I don’t like things, I fight,” said Wittel.


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