It was about an hour into the all-candidates debate on seniors issues when Sandi McCreight, a local seniors’ advocate, took a stand.
“Excuse me, can I just ask a question? Are we here to talk about seniors? My understanding was this was a seniors forum, and so I just want to clarify that, because it seems like we’re talking about a lot of things, but not that,” she said, interrupting Liberal candidate Jim Postnikoff.
McCreight is the seniors’ advocate and outreach worker at Castlegar Community Services and the program coordinator for Castlegar’s Better at Home program. She interrupted after candidates went off topic responding to a senior woman’s question about recreation.
The woman had asked the candidates about providing more physical activities for seniors and then suggested that additional programming could be paid for using the money intended for construction of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel, which she thought should be cancelled.
Samantha Troy, Green candidate, and Postnikoff then jumped off of the question to talk about coal, carbon taxes and slash — coarse and fine woody debris generated during logging operations — without addressing the first part of the question addressing activities for seniors.
McCreight had already expressed some frustration about the way the debate was going just after the half-an-hour mark.
“I have to say I’m disappointed. I can only imagine it’s hard to sit up there and talk, but I expected us to sit here and talk specifically about the things that seniors were asking about and I don’t feel like we’ve gotten there,” she said. “I feel like we’ve kind of skirted around general party things.”
Up to that point, the candidates had given their opening statements but had only responded to one prompt from councillor Deb McIntosh. In their responses, only incumbent Katrine Conroy, NDP, directly addressed seniors’ issues.
“The other thing we’re going to commit to is increased home support for seniors, because I see it so much,” she said. “The home support workers come and talk to me and they say, ‘I get 15 minutes to run in there, make sure they’re taking their pills and run out again. I can’t do dishes, I can’t straighten up, I can’t make sure that there’s no rugs folded over waiting for someone to fall and break their hip.’ We have to put the care back into home care.”
Conroy also wanted to see support for people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and better staffing at residential care homes.
In his opening statement, Postnikoff said that the B.C. Liberals will double the home renovation tax credit to $20,000 to make home improvements to accommodate seniors or family members with disabilities, will introduce a respite tax credit of up to $2,500 for people caring for seniors or family members with disabilities, and will invest $500 million to ensure seniors in residential care facilities are provided with a minimum of 3.36 care hours per day.
“We’re also going to introduce an active seniors tax credit to support and promote seniors leading active and healthy lifestyles,” he said.
For her part, Troy said that the B.C. Greens will invest $35 million over four years in home care to enable seniors and others who require assistance to stay in their own homes and provide an additional $2oo million over four years to address staffing levels in care homes.
“B.C. Greens will develop a medically assisted in dying strategy,” she said. “This will support training for physicians and nurses, and other medical professionals associated, who would wish to provide medically assisted dying services and which ensures patients receive services in an appropriate time frame and in an appropriate setting.”
The debate was held last Wednesday afternoon at the Castlegar Complex and was organized by the Kootenay Columbia Retired Teachers’ Association (KCRTA) and the Society for Protection and Care of Seniors.
“Usually it’s easier for seniors to get out during the day because a lot of them don’t drive at night,” explained Janice Andersoff of the KCRTA when asked why it was important to have all candidates forum for seniors. “And the seniors’ population is growing and there are problems in just health care and in housing for seniors that just haven’t been addressed in the past few years.”