Election 2015: All-candidates forum focus on seniors’ issues

Veterans' affairs and muzzling government scientists generate most debate at candidates' forum.

Local federal election candidates had an opportunity to win Kelowna seniors over to their side Tuesday evening at an all-candidates forum held at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Only Conservative candidate Dan Albas wasn’t present for the forum, as the candidates from both the Kelowna-Lake Country (KLC) and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola (COSNA) ridings were invited to address seniors’ issues.

Ron Cannan, the Conservative incumbent for KLC, found himself facing off against a unified candidate front  on several topics, most notably veteran’s affairs and the “muzzling” of government scientists.

Liberal candidates Karley Scott (COSNA) and Stephen Fuhr (KLC) had first crack at the issue of the federal government not allowing scientists to speak openly about scientific research they’re doing for the federal government.

“There are a bunch of officers of parliament, like the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Chief Electoral Officer, and we’re going to create a chief science officer,” Fuhr said.

“His role will be to insure that government-funded science is available for the public and to ensure public policy is consistent with that science.”

Scott noted the Liberals want to “unmuzzle” scientists, and they have a number of green infrastructure investments to help with innovation and supporting science.

She explained the Liberals won’t just develop policy and sit on it for years, but rather re-evaluate it on a year-by-year basis to ensure it still works, and overall to develop political policies based on science instead of the other way around.

NDP candidate Norah Bowman (KLC) referred to her personal background in science.

“I have a PhD from the University of Alberta and I was funded federally in my research, which was about climate change and the mountain pine beetle,” she described.

“Definitely there were times my research disagreed with some of the other research scientists came up with, and that discourse is part of what makes Canada a great country.

“So of course, researchers should not be muzzled, especially in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which affects things like the zebra mussel right here in our own ecosystem.”

Fellow NDP candidate Angelique Wood (COSNA) backed up Bowman’s comments, saying an NDP government will encourage scientific research and will listen to what is discovered.

“We know that the research our scientists are doing has to be published outside of Canada to get international attention, and that’s absolutely unpardonable,” Wood said.

“We have to bring that research back into Canada and help make our decisions based on it.”

Cannan defended the Conservative stance on scientific research, saying his government has invested a record $13 billion in science.

“Out of the G7, in support for scientific research and development, colleges and universities and other research institutions we ranked number one,” Cannan noted.

“Locally here, I work closely with UBC Okanagan, we have a program called ‘Survive, Thrive Advanced Research’ and we have a partnership with the private sector and UBCO for $8 million.

“We have an excellent working relationship with the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Agriculture Research Centre in Summerland.”

Cannan noted scientists in Canada produced 4,000 publications last year which helped drive policy, and stated he doesn’t believe there is a political war on science.

Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu (COSNA) said, “I’d like to agree with that one, that one, that one, that one, and almost with you,” motioning to the Liberal and NDP candidates first, and Cannan last.

“Those four forgot to mention the shredding of the documents as well, so I’d like to add that, but I agree with all they said.”

Bowman was the first to speak to the issue of providing support for veterans.

“Harper has shuttered nine veteran’s affairs offices, including the one in Kelowna,” she said.

“The NDP is going to re-open these offices. For me, this is an issue that, frankly, even if it would save money by closing offices, we need to keep them open. This is a principle.

“We don’t ask someone to make the ultimate sacrifice, and then say we need to save a little money so we’re going to cut back what we offered you. That’s not right.”

Bowman noted the NDP will also apologize and make amends to those forced from or dismissed from the military based on their sexual orientation or gender identification.

Fuhr cited his personal attachment to this particular issue, as a retired Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and current Royal Canadian Legion member who spends a lot of time talking to other vets.

“We know that vets are going to court and winning by suing the government for their benefits, and that is completely unacceptable,” Fuhr said.

“It’s extremely shocking to find out Veteran Affairs turned back 1.13 billion dollars to the treasury since 2006, so there’s absolutely no way we can reconcile that at all.”

Mellalieu said there is a need for more respect to be shown to veterans from the federal government.

“Veterans have to sign a contract of unlimited liability,” he explained.

“It’s a contract that says they will die for Canada if asked. I can’t think of a greater love for country.

“The Conservatives have not treated these patriots with anywhere near the respect they deserve.

“My mom and dad were married in Egypt during the Second World War when they were fighting (German Field Marshal Erwin) Rommel, and I think my dad would be livid to see what’s going on now.”

Cannan noted the progress the Conservatives have made in addressing veterans’ issues.

“We are making inroads, and we’re still continuing to work with our local Veteran Affairs office staff member that’s still there daily, Monday to Friday,” Cannan said.

“You can go see Colleen. She’s there to provide services for the veterans and their families. The nurses will come to your home, and we have a Telehealth office if you need to speak to a psychologist.”

He elaborated on the services available to veterans, speaking of the new Family Caregiver Relief Benefit, and $10,000 of employment income eligibility.

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Some comments from the candidates at the all-candidates forum on seniors’ iissues held in Kelowna on Tuesday:

Liberal candidate Karley Scott:

“This Prime Minister does not meet with the premiers, and I think you see the effects of that in our health care policies.”

“Something that I always push for, it’s not on the platform yet, but I will push for it more, is innovative solutions that incorporate our children spending time with our elders. It’s the way I was raised and I think it’s very important.”

“We need to restore our long-form census.  We have to go back to evidence-based and data-driven decision making, we’re leaving people behind and things are slipping through the cracks.”

Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr:

“Mr. Harper’s added $160 billion to our national debt, that represents 24 per cent of our total debt since our country was formed in 1867. That’s $20 billion per year over six deficit budgets. We’re going to do $10 billion in the first year, $10 billion in the second and $5.7 billion in the third investing in ourselves and in Canadians.”

NDP candidate Angelique Wood

“Unlike Liberals and Conservatives, we are not going to continue the huge tax breaks for big corporations. We will cut tax breaks for CEOs and subsidies for fossil fuel industries.”

“We know that simply by abolishing the Senate we would have a lot more money to distribute back into essential programs.”

NDP candidate Norah Bowman

“The NDP had a National Dementia Strategy, we consulted with groups, we consulted with health care providers, and we brought it to the house and it lost by one vote.  We had nine Conservatives support it.”

“The NDP has a plan to help five million Canadians get access to family doctors, as well as nurse practitioners.”

“We have called for a national water strategy because we have to preserve the resources we have, and we need to make sure they aren’t sold like a common commodity.”

Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu:

“Health care it is not. It would be better named the low-cost, short-sighted, inefficient death-delay system.”

“If you agree that youth are the economic future of Canada, why do we saddle them with huge debts when they leave college? The Green Party will slash, by phasing it in, the student debt. Students will not have to pay for their post-secondary education, like most countries.”

“Since the Senate is busted, I’d actually like to thank the First Nations for acting more like senators than the senators ever did. They have actually forced the government to make decisions they didn’t want to make, they are the ones who are blocking the pipelines right now, they are the ones saving our environment.”

Conservatie candidate Ron Cannan:

“I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister that the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country would not be too upset if the Senate was abolished.”

“I met with the premier of the Northwest Territories, and he said they didn’t want to (abolish the Senate) because they only have one MP, so they’d lose 50 per cent of their representation. In the meantime, the prime minister has guaranteed no more appointments.”

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