More than 100 people attended the forum organized by Similkameen Country the Keremeos and Area Chamber of Commerce and held at Victory Hall.
The event was attended by three of the four provincial candidates including incumbent Liberal candidate Linda Larson, Green Vonnie Lavers, and NDP Colleen Ross. Missing was independent candidate Dr. Peter Entwistle.
The night kicked off with a question about helping post secondary students facing insurmountable debt after school.
Lavers said the Green Party would “eliminate post secondary debt,” adding that her party’s ideas focused on needs grants, tax forgiveness and that the Greens would put in place a task force on education funding by July 2018.
Incumbent Liberal MLA Linda Larson pointed to the BC Training and Education grant that’s so far has helped thousands of children get started in saving for education. The grant puts forward $1,200 right away for their education and that is added to each year by parents and grandparents.
“It’s a nice pot,” she said.
She also said there’s been a big push on trades and programming in public high schools to help teens obtain their certifications faster.
Colleen Ross of the NDP said her party would provide rebates of $1,000 per student in university, trade and colleges. She also noted her party was offering a renters rebate and would cap tuition fees and provide no interest student loans.
A question from the floor surrounded projections that estimate by 2021 Keremeos and area would have 125 people living within its limits that have some sort of dementia related challenges. Currently Keremeos has beds for 12 dementia and Alzheimer patients. The candidates were asked what their party would do to help those people.
Ross said the NDP plans to open more public seniors homes that are affordable and start a mental health and addictions ministry.
Lavers said the Green plan is to add $40 million to provide funding for new long term care facilities.
Larson pointed to the Liberals funding 1,500 more care aides in the last four years and expanding the paramedic program to include community paramedicine.
Things got a little heated as a question from the floor came in asking about the shortage of health care workers.
Larson said there was no instant fix to the problem and that her government had created more spaces in post secondary education for more doctors and other health care workers, but said those people needed to be trained and that was happening as fast it could.
“We’d all like to snap our fingers and have these people trained but it takes time and we’re getting it done as quickly as possible,” she said.
Ross recoiled at that statement saying the Liberals knew more than a decade ago there was an aging population on the horizon that would be facing a shortage of health care professionals. She said her party would startup a task force immediately.
“The Liberals should be judged on this,” she said.
Lavers echoed Ross’ statements and went a bit farther with her condemnation of the Liberals.
“We have known this was coming,” she said. “And on top of that we invited people to live and come retire here and didn’t think about what our health care system would need or look like… It’s inexcusable they didn’t do the planning.”
One resident asked what the candidates would do to make solar and green energy more affordable.
Larson said costing for solar panels was going down but that she didn’t have any information in front of her about her party’s platform to increase green energy production.
Lavers the Green candidate said whoever forms government needs to start looking at the billions in subsidies given to the oil and gas companies and start helping green energy projects. She also suggested rebates for customers.
Ross said there was possibilities with retrofitting homes with solar and wind and that green energy type jobs could be big job creators.