Vernon-Monashee candidates were faced with a wide array of issues as they answered to Lumby and area voters Wednesday.
New Democrat Barry Dorval, Green Keli Westgate and Libertarian Don Jefcoat joined incumbent Liberal Eric Foster on his home turf for the Lumby Chamber of Commerce forum at the White Valley Community Centre.
The four candidates were questioned on farm gate sales, brownfields, a road to Silver Star, composting, the balanced budget, vaccine transparency, Site C, post secondary tuition, bridge toll removal and Daylight Savings Time.
The loss of two of the three doctors in Lumby, an aging population and healthcare concerns were also topics raised by some of the approximately 70 people in attendance.
“It’s a huge challenge. I’ve been here 35 years and it’s been a revolving door of doctors,” said Foster, noting that the Liberal government is trying to take the burden off of physicians with such measures as changing the scope of practice for pharmacists. “If you can take some of that day to day work out of their (doctor’s) office it helps.”
Each of the candidates agreed that there is a need for more doctors, but also had some additional suggestions.
Dorval suggested doctors need a team to work with, but also that when they are being trained there be a rural post component to highlight the benefits of working in a small town.
“So they can see coming to a place like Lumby is not a death sentence, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Dorval, a high school English teacher.
Westgate says more needs to be done on the prevention side so less doctors are needed, as well as taking pressure off doctors with other professionals such as midwifes. Addressing conditions early on is also essential, she said, using breast cancer as one example.
“If you have a lump being able to look at that early and not having to wait so long that it creates a bigger problem,” said Westgate, sales and marketing manager at Spa Hills Compost.
Jefcoat (a cook) said more community practices are needed, which includes nurse practitioners and a support network to take the burden off doctors.
“If you had a rash that just showed up you could go see a nurse practitioner and she could tell you you just need a cream,” said Jefcoat, adding that places like Williams Lake actually calls doctors and offers incentives to try and get them to town.
Also on the topic of healthcare was the cost of medications, which many are struggling with.
“There’s a lot of people that can’t afford pills, whether it’s Tylenol or prescriptions,” said Jefcoat, who would like to see Pharmacare put into universal health care.
“It’s debilitating. It’s cruel,” added Dorval, whose NDP party would push for a national Pharmacare program. “This is a national issue, it affects every Canadian.”
The Greens are looking at an essential drugs program for 2019, said Westgate, and other initiatives.
“Reduce the costs of medications and raise the rate paid to those with disability,” she urged.
While he agrees it is an issue, Foster points out that the government already has a $19 billion healthcare bill.
Veering off the healthcare topic, on the prospect of a road from Lumby to Silver Star, everyone agreed it was necessary as another emergency route and would be a big boost to Lumby.
But Foster says the cost is up in the $25 million range.
“It’s a huge expense. It goes through some pretty sensitive area and there has to be a good reason to build it.”