Candidates from both the Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola ridings faced the electorate for the first time last Saturday in Kelowna, talking mostly about issues affecting seniors.
The forum was sponsored by National Association of Federal Retirees and the Canadian Association of Retired Teachers, and heavy on their minds were the topics of the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS).
The format of the forum saw each party given two minutes for one or both of its candidates to respond to the questions asked by CBC’s Chris Walker, who hosted the event.
Kelowna-Lake Country incumbent Liberal Stephen Fuhr recounted some of the measures his government had taken over the past year regarding issues facing seniors in Canada.
“We rolled back OAS/GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) from 67 to 65 (years of age), so that’s very important,” he said.
“That represents about $13,000 over the two years for pensioners in their pocket. We increased GIS for single seniors by 10 per cent, which is significant.
”It affected 900,000 single seniors and it lifted 57,000 single seniors out of poverty. All of those were very important and the Official Opposition, the Conservatives, actually voted against us doing that.”
Dan Albas, incumbent Conservative MP for the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding, said that his party’s lack of support on the issue was due to a faltering economy.
“We as a society can not expect that if the economy is not doing well, that you can continue to increase those things,” Albas said.
“We need to have a strong economy, that includes things like support for national projects like the Trans Mountain Pipeline moving forward.
“That provides jobs and employment right through our riding and is welcomed by many communities. We also have the forestry sector that puts a lot of food on the table.
“We’ve always got to remember that government can’t exceed more than its ability to raise in taxation.”
Joan Phillip, NDP candidate for the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding, said movement away from oil is necessary, citing clean energy as the NDP’s focus on financing programs like OAS and CPP.
“Why are we not investing in clean energy projects instead of investing in dirty oil and a dying industry?” she said.
“We saw too many fires this year; there are hurricanes throughout the world. It’s absolutely ridiculous to continue investing in an industry that is causing us undue harm.
”It’s not leaving anything for my children or grandchildren to look forward to.”
Robert Mellalieu, Green Party candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said his party has several key points on its platform regarding pension.
“We are going to show respect by removing the mandatory retirement age — work as long as you like,” he said.
“We’re going to ensure fairness by removing the ability of businesses to steal pension plans from workers. We’re going to protect Canadians by requiring pension plans to be audited and meet a rigorous set of policies.
“We will not have another Sears debacle on our watch.”
Mellalieu also assured a guaranteed livable wage for Canadians — no matter how old they are.
Allan Duncan, candidate for the People’s Party of Canada for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said his party believes a thriving economy best addresses the concerns Canadians have over income certainty into their retirement years.
“A thriving economy provides certainty for our established programs,” he said.
“An economy that bankrupts itself by recklessly excessive government spending provides no future security. The great threat to income security is excessive government spending.”
He said the People’s Party plans to cut excessive spending and balance the budget within two years, allowing for more money to be spent on OAS and CPP.
Brynn Jones, the Marijuana Party’s candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, called the amount of money being handed to seniors “criminal.”
“The growing costs of food, utilities, fuel, housing and education have outpaced our income gains in Canada,” he said.
“We tax the elderly on their fixed incomes. Income security is paramount to a successful economy.”
Jones added that pension needs to be adjusted to reflect living costs.
Election day is Oct. 21.