Three candidates vying for votes in the newly carved Red Deer-Mountain View riding fielded mostly health-care related questions in a forum hosted by the Red Deer Public Library on Wednesday.
Attendees wanted to know the candidates’ take on a national pharmacare program and how they would address the senior and persons with disabilities housing crisis.
New Democratic Party candidate Paul Harris, Liberal candidate Chandra Kastern, and Libertarian Party candidate James Walper presented their cases in the hope of being the voter’s choice on Oct. 19.
The Red Deer-Mountain View riding runs from Red Deer south of Ross Street to Carstairs, west to Sundre (but not Rocky Mountain House) and east to Delburne and Elnora. It includes portions of Mountain View and Red Deer counties.
Missing from the forum were candidates Earl Dreeshen for the Conservatives, Scott Milne, for the Pirate Party and Simon Oleny for the Green Party. The three were unable to attend because of prior engagements.
Once again it was Canada’s changing demographic and the repercussions which dominated the forum. Today there are more seniors than children in the country.
All three candidates were on different sides of the fence when it came to introducing a national pharmacare program.
Kastern said the Liberals have committed to bring the provinces and terrorities together to begin negotiations on a new Health Care Accord and discuss improving pharmaceutical care in the provinces and the funding required from the federal government.
Walper said the Libertarian Party would approach the issue of affordable drugs in a different way. He said the party would like to free up patent laws. The party believes in a true free market capitalist movement which would bring costs down.
“When it comes to health care in general, we are very much wanting to allow the municipalities to have more power over the federal,” said Walper. “We are very much bottom up than top down.”
The NDP are very much in favour of putting together a national program, said Harris.
He said perhaps it is time to extend the health-care system and revisit some of the things that are falling through the cracks.
“I think we need a national framework that looks at our whole medical system and we need to do that in collaboration with both the provinces and the municipalities,” said Harris.
All three candidates agreed the federal government must collaborate with the municipal and provincial governments.
Harris said the three orders of government – municipal, provincial and federal – need to get rid of the finger-pointing and come together to address the housing crisis.
Kastern said this is clearly issue where one in four Canadians pay too much for housing and one in eight cannot find suitable and affordable housing. She said this is part of the Liberal’s investment in social infrastructure including building new senior facilities, retrofitting existing ones and refurbishing old and empty ones.
Walper said under the Libertarian’s flat tax system, the first $17,300 that a person makes would be tax-free. He said people would have more money to afford more housing.
One person asked about the “national disgrace” of Canada’s First Nations who, for example, are living in poverty and drinking unsafe water on reserves in reference to a recent Macleans article.
Kastern said the Liberal platform has several prongs including Métis reconciliation in addressing the crisis that is the First Nations community. She said there would be an immediate inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Harris said he has been leading a national urban group on urban Aboriginal issues which brings municipal leaders together to discuss what they can do to help people who move into their communities. He said people who do not feel they belong in a community are more prone to suicide and addictions. He would like to continue those discussions and work with municipalities.
Walper said as a politician he would have to go out and talk to individuals in different locations of Canada about how they actually feel and consider any necessary funding to set them up for success.
Candidates also fielded a question on the recent focus on the niqab on the election trail. All three agreed it was time to move on and to focus on what is relevant when considering where to cast a ballot come election day.
The new riding was carved out of the electoral districts of Crowfoot, Red Deer and Wild Rose.
Red Deer College political science instructor Dave Baugh acted as moderator.
The Red Deer Public Library will host a forum for candidates in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding at its downtown location today at 6:30 p.m.