On Thursday, October 15th, the Seniors Drop-In Centre on Bay St., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was the venue for an all candidates panel. Federal election 2015 candidates Skip Morrison NDP, Bryan Hayes Conservative, Terry Sheehan Liberal, Green Party Kara Flannigan and Marxist-Leninist Party Mike Taffarel, were asked to share their party’s platform on a number of issues facing seniors.
The event was organized by co-chairs Gayle Manley and Marie Della Vedova, who are both retired teachers and members of the political advocacy committee, District 3 RTO (Retired Teachers of Ontario). “We wanted to organize a forum whereby seniors issues could be addressed in more depth.” shared Marie Della Vedova. “We were thankful to be able to host the event at the Seniors Drop In Centre, and the audience turn-out was substantial.” The number of seniors who came out to hear the Federal Candidates was indeed substantial, numbering around 70 people.
Questions were asked by representatives from Bernice Whalen, District 3 (local) Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO/ERO), Marilyn Patterson, Chapter 15 of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), Evelyn Terrio, Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma Seniors Health Advisory (SHAC) and Linda MacDonald, local representative to the Algoma Branch of the National Association of Federal Retirees (NAFR). The Moderator was Richard Prophet, also from RTO.
Issues raised by the panelists included A National Strategy for Seniors as it relates to Healthcare, and Pharmacare, Dementia, Retirement income, the CPP (Canada Pension Plan), affordable housing for seniors, Poverty, Hospice, End of Life Planning and more.
While Climate Change did not come up as a question from the panelists, Kara Flannigan, Green Party shared a passionate and articulate message about the effects of climate change on the health and well being of seniors, and all citizens in Canada. She encouraged the seniors to “be bold and vote for a party that will turn Canada around from its’ reliance on fossil fuels. A Canada that will be green and healthy for generations to come.” adding “Without health, you cannot have an economy.”
On the subject of affordable housing, one of the audience members asked a question directed to Bryan Hayes, Conservative candidate to qualify his view on ‘affordable housing’ as it relates to the private sector. “What do you think affordable housing is?” she asked “I’m not arguing with you,” said Hayes to the audience member “I mean that when a senior can no longer stay in their home, in many cases the private sector steps in. That’s all I’m alluding to. I’m not suggesting that it is necessarily affordable.”
Mike Taffarel (MLP) on the same issue of affordable housing said “We have seen buildings and properties along our waterfront sold for next to nothing. The top 1% are certainly being taken care of. Instead of affordable housing, they are being turned into luxury condominiums.”
NDP Skip Morrison said “the vast majority of seniors cannot afford a $1200/month rent. The lack of affordable options in our community causes more stress, more heartache as seniors struggle to find a place to live when they can no longer stay in their homes. The government has an obligation to seniors to provide affordable housing.” Skip reflected on meeting Ian Boss, a young man who lost his father last year, and is walking across the country to raise the issue of palliative care and hospice.”Palliative care is something that I would work to expand upon and implement in this Country, and I would not rest until it is accomplished nationally.”
Liberal Terry Sheehan said “We need to prioritize. We need to get this community working again for all people. The Liberals have an inclusive plan that includes a caring Canada. Health care, long term care facilities, and the economy are the main issues I am hearing at the door. A 35 year old is saving only 1/2 of what a person in previous generations saved” adding “The Conservatives ran 20 billion dollar deficits for 6 consecutive years and then balanced the books on the backs of seniors and veterans.”
In the audience was Ron Irwin (former Liberal Cabinet minister and parliamentarian serving in the Jean Cretien government 1993-1997) who said “There were good questions asked today, and the solutions are hard. Prioritizing the issues will be important.”
Audience member Janet Shetler said “I was very embarrassed for Bryan Hayes today. You can tell by looking at him, that he is not speaking from his heart. He has to tow the party line. I was most impressed with Kara Flannigan (Green Party) and Skip Morrison (NDP). I appreciated their passionate approach today. They spoke from the heart. There are always surprises, after election, when an opposing party takes over in government, and they have a chance to look at the books. I was a bookkeeper all my life, and the books don’t lie.”
With the Federal Election only three days away, seniors will continue to be a priority for candidates. According to Statistics Canada, ‘In 2011, the percentage of the population aged 65 and over in Sault Ste. Marie was 19.3%, compared with a national percentage of 14.8%. The percentage of the working age population (15 to 64) was 66.3% and the percentage of children aged 0 to 14 was 14.4%. In comparison, the national percentages were 68.5% for the population aged 15 to 64 and 16.7% for the population aged 0 to 14.’
Every vote counts.