Lindsay’s social advocacy groups grilled Haliburton-Kawartha LakesBrock federal election candidates about their party’s social policies Oct. 6.
The Lindsay Advocate hosted an allcandidates debate at the Cambridge Street United Church with the help of the Food Security Working Group of the Kawartha Lakes Food Coalition, Kawartha Citizens United and Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition.
Each of the candidates took part, including the People’s Party of Canada’s (PPC) Gene Balfour, NDP’s Barbara Doyle, Liberal Party’s Judi Forbes, Green Party’s Elizabeth Fraser and Conservative Party incumbent Jamie Schmale.
Candidates were asked how they would address seniors’ health issues.
Doyle said the NDP would develop a national seniors’ strategy, including universal pharmacare. She also said seniors’ benefits would be looked at as a top priority.
“We know we’re not giving enough. Seniors built this country. We know we have to be better for your day-today living,” Doyle said.
Forbes spoke to the Liberal government’s record, such as reversing cuts to Old Age Security (OAS), increasing the guaranteed income supplement and creating a national dementia strategy.
“I actually volunteer at a local seniors’ home and when visiting this home, they tell you about how this government’s seniors’ programs have made a difference,” Forbes said.
Fraser said her party would implement universal pharamacare and home-sharing programs to allow people to stay in their homes longer.
“Seniors deserve to have the same level of care as all Canadians and we can do that by making health care more affordable,” Fraser said.
Balfour discussed how increasing the tax burden and regulations are making living costs higher.
“If I leave one message here today, it’s going to be about affordability,” Balfour said, before adding a quote from a C.D. Howe Institute Report, “Politicians promising handouts are selling short-term snake oil.”
Schmale said pension cheques are not going far enough and the Conservatives would help alleviate living costs by taking the GST off home-heating bills, getting rid of the carbon tax and lowering income taxes for the lowest bracket.
He also said the Canada Pension Plan needs to provide seniors with better options for passing their contribution to family members after they die.
“If we tweak that program, we can give seniors flexibility and help them keep most of their money because, after all, that’s their money that they saved up for,” he said.
Basic income Candidates were asked whether their party supports a guaranteed basic income. The province piloted it in Lindsay in 2018 but the new Conservative government cancelled it in March 2019.
Forbes said her party has worked to help the middle class through benefits and tax cuts. Although her party is not promising it, she said it is a consideration and she would personally champion if elected.
“Locally, I acknowledge individuals were severely impacted by Ford’s cancellation of the pilot program,” Forbes said.
Both Fraser and Doyle garnered applause after explaining how their parties support the idea.
“This is a program we don’t need to test anymore. We know it works,” Fraser said, adding it could be funded through increasing corporate tax rates and tackling off-share tax havens.
“We saw in our community the positive impacts to all the participants, but also the businesses in your town,” Doyle said. “We can do better taking care of each other in this country.”
Balfour questioned whether the idea is fiscally achievable.
“Everybody talks about what they would like to do, the nice to have,” Balfour said. “Let’s look at the cost and operational aspects of this to figure out if this is truly viable, or are we just dreaming.”
Schmale said addressing affordability issues should come by addressing living costs, citing rising Hydro bills as an example.
“People are having less and less into their paycheques and their pension cheques to go by,” Schmale said. “Ask yourself why. Tax is going up. Bad government policies are causing a lot of these problems.”
The full stream of the debate is available through The Lindsay Advocate.