Regina seniors energetically engage at allcandidate election forum

BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post A crowded room at Regina’s Wesley United Church filled with a mixture of cheers, applause, boos, scoffs, whoops and laughs as local politicians stated their case at what was billed as an all-candidates election forum focused on issues for “older adults” on Thursday afternoon.From pensions and national pharmacare to seniors abuse and more, candidates in Regina’s three federal ridings laid it all on the table for a group of about 100 to 150 people looking to inform their vote.Notably absent were any candidates from the Conservative Party. Organizers said they “declined” an invitation to the event, but did not elaborate why.“We responded to the organizers that we would not be able to attend due to a prior commitment,” said a written statement received from Regina—Lewvan candidate Warren Steinley’s campaign office. “We are invited to many events and functions and unfortunately some do overlap.”The statement said Steinley apologizes for missing the event and is “happy to discuss policy and address concerns of seniors and all constituents.”Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Three members from the Green Party, Liberal Party, and the People’s Party of Canada attended, each taking one of three pre-determined questions for the crowd. The NDP had just one candidate, Jigar Patel in attendance.There was plenty of applause to go around as long-time Regina—Wascana, Liberal Party candidate Ralph Goodale promised to increase Old Age Security pensions by July 2020 and negotiate with the provinces to increase survivor benefits for widows and widowers.The crowd went wild when Green Party candidate Naomi Hunter promised to protect pensions by getting them at the top of the liability list instead of the bottom when companies go bankrupt.“When companies go bankrupt, that should not fall onto the backs of hardworking Canadian who have spent their entire lives working, thinking that they were saving for their future,” said Hunter. A crowd listens in as federal political candidates speak regarding their parties’ positions toward seniors at the Wesley United Church on Hillsdale Street. For 70-year-old Pat Rivera, the decline of defined contribution pension plans in Canada is top of mind, especially when she considers the future of her children.“They’ll either be on their own or it will be very minimal, so I worry more about them,” she said. “I think if something was in place now that could grow that would be good.”During the second half of the forum which was opened to questions from the audience, shock and dismay rippled through the crowd when Peoples Party of Canada candidate Tracey Sparrowhawk responded to a question about how her party would address senior abuse.“A lot of this goes on in silence and behind closed doors, but you need to speak up and take responsibility for your own situation,” said Sparrowhawk.The PCC took more heat when candidate Trevor Wowk firmly stated that there is no climate change crisis.“Fake news,” someone shouted from the crowd as others laughed in apparent disbelief. Wowk did some find support from attendees when he promised his party would abolish the carbon tax.“For that individual to outright deny it is shocking to me,” said 65-year-old Dale Weisbrot during a mid-forum break.NDP candidate Patel emphasized the party’s plan for universal pharmacare, boasting it will save families and the country money. He said seniors deserve better , given this country has the highest drug costs in the world.Waffling on his vote, Weisbrot said he was very disappointed to not see anyone from the Conservative Party in attendance.“It shows, I think, disrespect,” he said.A huge supporter of former NDP Regina—Lewvan MP Erin Weir, he said he may switch his vote to the Liberals, impressed that Goodale is such a “tireless worker.” Or he may spoil his ballot by writing in his own choice — Weir.jackerman@postmedia.com

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