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Federal Election 2015  

Disabilities focus of forum

It was almost and all-candidates forum at the People Place in Vernon Tuesday.

Three of the four federal candidates for the North Okangan-Shuswap riding made the forum that was sponsored by Independent Living Vernon.

Missing from the line up was Conservative candidate Mel Arnold. NDP hopeful Jacqui Gingras, Chris George of the Green Party and Cindy Derkaz of the Liberals attended the event.

Independent Living Vernon executive director Laura Hockman admits she was a little disappointed the Tory candidate did not make the event.

Arnold had said early on in the campaign he would not be able to attend all of the forums due to a busy schedule.

“He declined our invitation,” said Hockman.

“We have three candidates and that is what we will focus on,” she said. “It is disappointing, but having the other three candidates here is a good turnout for us.”

The focus of the forum was on the challenges people with disabilities face.

Not only the physical challenges, but financial ones as well with questions about what the candidates would do to help people with disabilities, many of whom live in abject poverty.

One man in the audience of about 50 people told the candidates he is expected to live on less than $200 a month from his disability income.

George touted the Greens plan of a minimum living wage of $20,000 a year for everyone over 18 who needs it.

“The idea is to give people enough money to live on,” he said. “There is a number of different ways to look at this. This is affordable.”

George said the Green plan is to go after large corporations and increase the taxes they pay by four per cent to pay for needed programs.

Derkaz said the Liberals also have a minimum living wage plan, and in 2014 the Grits passed a guaranteed income resolution.

“I love that idea. I would advocate very strongly for it,” she said, adding the Liberal plan would get rid of the administration and put “money into hands of people who need it.”

Gingras hailed the NDP plan to tackle poverty in Vernon and across the country.

“Poverty is a big issue. Over the decades the number of people who have been living ion poverty has increased,” she said, adding 20 per cent of children in B.C. and 20 per cent of seniors live in poverty.

Gingras rolled out the party plan for a $15 national minimum wage as a vehicle to fight poverty.

“The cost of living goes up, but what people are expected to live on stays the same and in some cases it is going down,” she said.

Gingras said the NDP would also go after corporations with a two per cent increase to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.

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