With disabilities on the rise, greater support is being sought for those struggling to afford and access equal opportunities as the rest of the population.
A packed crowd of nearly 50, a majority of which are living with some form of disability, gathered at People Place Tuesday night to question the North Okanagan-Shuswap federal election candidates.
Among the issues raised at the forum were accessibility, in a variety of forms, from housing and health care to handrails.
“It (disability) has gone up 16 per cent, that scares me,” said Lisa Briggs, with Independent Living Vernon, which hosted the forum.
Through her work, Briggs has worked with a wide array of clients—one of which was homeless, had no access to a doctor, and because of that, he ended up having two toes amputated.
“I run into people all the time who don’t have access to a doctor,” Briggs said. “I am so afraid for what I see out there.”
The doctor shortage, for all citizens, is a reality each of the candidates is dedicated to addressing.
“We need to ensure that every Canadian has a family doctor,” Green candidate Marc Reinarz said. He said he worries about how to look after those living remotely. “We can do more to make efficient use of nurse practitioners. We need more beds to reduce the wait times.”
Reducing red tape for skilled doctors wanting to immigrate to B.C., whether across national or provincial borders, is also needed, according to all of the candidates.
“We can retain those professionals quicker without them having to go through recertification processes,” People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing said. He also promotes retaining GST in provinces so those funds can support health care.
Incumbent Conservative candidate Mel Arnold agrees equal opportunities are needed for doctors to practice in Canada: “We need to break down some of the barriers so that doctors can immigrate here. We compete at a global level for professionals within Canada.”
Making the licensing process a lot easier is a top priority for Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz, who said affordability also includes universal Pharmacare.
“We (Liberals) pledge to make sure every Canadian has a doctor or access to a health care team by 2025,” Derkaz said.
As a registered nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu is a big advocate of health and routinely witnesses the effects of the doctor shortage.
“I see it daily,” said Sandhu, adding that getting more youth into the field would be achieved with interest free student loans. The NDP also support universal Pharmacare, which Sandhu says would save the average person $500.
A mother of three, Sandhu originally lived in Terrace but moved to Vernon after her husband died of cancer years ago.
Being a socialist NDP member, Sandhu says she and her party are always for social services. The NDP pledge to build 500,000 affordable quality homes over the next 10 years and a full review of income security programs.
“The income they are getting is just a joke let’s face it,” said Sandhu, who wants to see employment insurance work better.
Derkaz, who ran in the federal election four years ago and, “came in a close second,” said housing is also a priority for Liberals.
“Without housing, people aren’t able to get ahead and aren’t able to seek employment,” said Derkaz, pointing to the Liberal 2020 plan to have a Canada housing benefit that would allow people to stay in their homes.
Arnold says the Conservatives want to eliminate the carbon tax (which he said hurts everyone), reconstitute the public transit credit and create a person’s-with-disabilities savings plan for those who are working which would be matched by the government.
“The main part of our Conservative day platform is affordability and that’s affordability for everyone,” Arnold said.
Putting money back into Canadian’s pockets through supply and demand is what the PPC propose.
“We need to make the proper investments in Canadians without removing social services,” said Delfing, whose party would implement a tax exemption on the first $15,000 earned.
A basic livable income is essential for all Canadians, said Reinarz, whose party also supports Pharmacare, as well as providing passes for transit and access to dental care and safe shelter.
The next chance to check out the North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates takes place Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre at 6:30 p.m., hosted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.