BRIGHTON – Candidates for the Northumberland-Peterborough South riding are trying to convince the public their party is best equipped to handle the various seniors’ issues facing the area, at the all-candidates debate in Brighton on Thursday.
Three of the four candidates are on hand. Conservative candidate Adam Moulton isn’t there.
The debate was hosted by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons  and was open to everyone.
Health care was an issue from the very start, as NDP candidate Russ Christianson addressed it in his opening speech.
“If we are able to reach surpluses, we will invest in healthcare for the elderly and the youth.”
Elderly issues motivate me too, Kim Rudd reminded the crowd in her opening statement.
“Seniors issues and rights and the dignity of seniors are some of the things that motivates me, because we’re all going to be there some day.”
Green Party candidate Patricia Sinnott suggested her party would “shift healthcare dollars to illness prevention.”
The Greens also want to address poverty, Sinnott said.
“People shouldn’t have to choose between paying rent and filling a prescription. The Green Party will introduce a guaranteed livable income and universal pharmacare for the area.”
The crowd gave Sinnott a loud round of applause after her first statement.
“Harper wants to take money out of our health care system, and that’s the opposite of what we need to do,” said the NDP’s Christianson.
He reinforced his point by saying his party plans to hire 7,000 new doctors if elected. He also said they have an Alzheimer’s and dementia strategy.
Sinnott echoed Christianson’s comments, “Sometimes we treat our pets better than how we treat our own.”
The candidates were asked what their parties would do for seniors that are struggling now.
Christianson said the NDP would lower the retirement age back to 65 from the current 67.
“It should never have been raised to 67. People’s bodies will start to break down doing hard jobs until they’re 67.”
His party will also reintroduce affordable co-operative housing for seniors, Christianson said.
On the subject of affordable housing, Sinnott said the Green Party is proposing $6.1 million a year be given to municipalities for infrastructure.
“This would be used to create affordable housing. Building housing also lets young trades workers like carpenters get work and practise,” she said.
The candidates were asked what they would do to improve home care practices.
The standards are as important as the care, Rudd said. “The standards should be as strong on the caregiver as the care given.”
“People want to stay at home and we need to find a way to make it work,” Christianson responded. He went on to say the privatization of caregivers has resulted in a low standard of care.
One thing the candidates didn’t disagree on is the national Pharmacare program, all saying their parties are in favour of it. They also all agreed on doctor-assisted death.
The last pre-determined question was how the riding would benefit from each candidate being elected.
Christianson said the area needs a strategy around youth unemployment and ending unpaid internships.
Sinnott addressed local environmental issues in her “Why would I benefit this riding?” statement.
Rudd said both she and federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau agree that small business and entrepreneurship will be the key for this riding.
The crowd clapped heartily when Christianson jabbed at Moulton for being absent. He said the candidates were “like the four musketeers without the fourth musketeer.”
One audience member asked the candidates how they would protect domestic Canada. Rudd said the Liberals believe Canada needs trade.
“But I don’t like the term free trade – nothing is free. I like reciprocity. If I give you something, I want something back of equal or even more value.”
But Sinnott disagreed with her, saying that “free trade is not the be-all and end-all.”
Christianson suggested free trade should actually be called investor protection agreements.
“We need to take a check on all 35 free trade agreements (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper has gone around the world and signed. Is our economy better off because of it? No.”
Youth unemployment was another question from the audience.
Sinnott said the Greens promise free postsecondary tuition by 2020 and will excuse a large portion of student debts.
“Investing in the youth is very important,” she said.
She wasn’t the only candidate with a promise, though. Christianson said the NDP plans to invest $200 million over three years to create 40,000 youth jobs a year going forward.
The three candidates graciously sacrificed their closing statements to answer the remaining audience questions.
One of these questions was about taking care of Canada’s veterans.
“If the Canadian government can put up tens of billions on fighter jets we don’t need, why can’t we take care of those that fought on our behalf? Seems like a question of prioritization to me,” said Christianson.
The Greens also support the Canadian army, said Sinnott. “They need shelter where they can be safe and support to help them with their issues.”
A member of the audience asked Rudd why they should vote for Trudeau to run their country, seeing as he hasn’t even run a business before. In this video, she explains why she is on Team Trudeau:
Other topics discussed at the debate were drug and vaccine prices, long-term care facilities and marijuana legalization.
Moulton declined the invitation to the debate. Media reports  quoted him saying it interfered with his door-to-door campaigning. It was reported Monday that Moulton plans to attend two of the nine public debates scheduled in the region.