A civic election forum on Wednesday (Sept. 28) put seniors in the spotlight and included ideas about free transit, a drop-in centre, emergency evacuation planning, housing and more.
About 50 people turned up to hear from two-dozen mayoral and council hopefuls in advance of the Oct. 15 civic election. Additional forums will follow next week, including one co-hosted by CBC, Kamloops This Week and Radio NL on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at Thompson Rivers University.
One mayoral candidate, Ray Dhaliwal, was absent at the seniors forum, as were councillor candidates Jamie Allen, Francois Lambert and Reo Rocheleau.
Councillor candidate Taj Sandur said he is the youngest candidate, but noted youth and seniors share concerns about community safety, affordability and livability.
“What the youth want and what you want is actually quite similar,” Sandur said, speaking to an audience of primarily seniors at Desert Gardens downtown.
Councillor candidate Nancy Bepple, who organized the forum, said she couldn’t afford to buy her current house due to increases in property values. She suggested the city look at zoning, permitting and other initiatives in Edmonton to combat rising housing costs. Coun. Sadie Hunter, running for mayor, suggested pre-approved plans and a digital portal.
Councillor candidate Katie Neustaeter said a quarter of B.C. residents are seniors and another quarter are people with disabilities. She said 20 per cent of B.C. seniors have no one to call in an emergency and most seniors homes do not have evacuation plans. Speaking with KTW, she pointed to Orchards Walk as an area with one road in and out and suggested linking facilities with transportation partners in the short term and infrastructure to improve access long-term.
Councillor hopeful Jesse Ritcey cited climate change as an issue that has been “absolutely lethal” to seniors.
Seventy-one-year-old Glenfair Seniors Housing resident Linda Inglis told KTW she attended the forum to hear from candidates about community safety. She left impressed by third-time councillor candidate and chiropractor Stephen Karpuk, who talked about health care and quipped about the “Inferior” Health Authority being Kelowna-centric. Explaining how he would advocate for cancer care and more, Karpuk said he would be a “raging bonfire” burning through roadblocks.
Councillor candidate Mac Gordon opted against using a microphone, communicating loudly his disappointment with the city.
Councillor candidate Darrell LaRiviere cussed when explaining his philosophy on homelessness, while councillor hopeful Bonnie Cleland, a new mother, showed off her multi-tasking skills by holding her young son in one hand and the microphone in another while discussing the need for an intergenerational approach to daycare shortages.
Councillor candidate Kelly Hall said seniors he spoke with at Berwick on the Park are concerned about health care. He cited his experience on the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation board and said he is pleased to see the city involved with incentives to attract physicians. Hunter noted she put forward that motion at council this past summer. Coun. Bill Sarai said a certain segment of the population is being given free needles to do drugs, arguing seniors should receive free needles for their insulin.
Councillor candidate Darpan Sharma pledged, if elected to council, to put forward notices of motion within the first 60 days of the term for free seniors transit and a feasibility study for a seniors drop-in centre. Sharma is sharing a platform with fellow councillor candidates Dennis Giesbrecht and Caroline King, the latter who jabbed incumbent councillors during the forum, pointing to spending at city hall on meals, including more than $170,000 over four years at Terra Restaurant, the former high-end downtown eatery.
“That’s an issue that really bothers me,” King said, citing the need for a hard look at city spending to fund initiatives.
Inglis, the senior attending the forum from Glenfair, already has a Compass Card, which provides low-income seniors transit at $45 per year, but she praised the drop-in centre idea, noting a desire for a hearing-impaired and handicap-friendly place to access information and a meal.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said he would not be in favour of free transit for all seniors, but would be in favour of expanding the needs-based program. He said he supports incorporating a seniors centre into a more holistic facility, similar to the Tournament Capital Centre. He told KTW ideas floated during the forum were possible, but not without a tax increase.
Last year, Kamloops residents saw a five per cent tax increase and many seniors are on fixed incomes.