NDP Barry Dorval, left, Liberal Eric Foster, Libertarian Don Jefcoat, and Greens Keli Westgate answer questions regarding issues concerning persons with disabilities during the final all candidates forum at the People Place Thursday. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

NDP Barry Dorval, left, Liberal Eric Foster, Libertarian Don Jefcoat, and Greens Keli Westgate answer questions regarding issues concerning persons with disabilities during the final all candidates forum at the People Place Thursday. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Disability funding in the spotlight

Government plans for disability funding dominated the all candidates forum Thursday

Government plans for disability funding dominated the conversation Thursday at the all candidates forum.

With about 30 people in attendance, the four candidates from the Vernon-Monashee riding answered audience questions with regards to issues concerning people with disabilities at the People Place in the last forum prior to Tuesday’s election.

The candidates were all asked why, despite skyrocketing costs, individuals on personal disability have only received one small increase in funding since 2005, and how their government would combat this issue without considering employment as an option.

“Our commitment over budget is an extra $50 per month,” said Liberal candidate Eric Foster, adding that while $50 per person doesn’t sound like a lot, it would equal $200,000 B.C. wide.

Libertarian Don Jefcoat said he plans on supporting those on disabilities based on market value evaluations, meaning the amount of money supplied to those in need would vary from case to case and by location.

“We need to give them all the tools and support they need to live a healthy and happy life,” said Jefcoat.

The Greens believe in helping those in greatest need, said candidate Keli Westgate, adding that their government would raise the amounts given to those on disability funding by 10 per cent per year up to 2020.

“When people have fallen on hard times, there’s going to be some foundation money there for them,” said Westgate, noting the Greens plan to have a safety net.

The NDP platform talks about raising disability assistance funding, said candidate Barry Dorval, adding that their government would look at stabilizing the province’s soaring housing costs.

“(We will) make more housing opportunities for everyone, including those with disabilities,” said Dorval.

The hosts of the evening, Independent Living Vernon, a group aimed at removing barriers faced by those with disabilities, asked why B.C. doesn’t have a disability advocate.

“I do think we need advocacy programs,” said Jefcoat. “I do believe we need to support the installation of a person for this.”

Westgate agreed.

“I feel it is very important to have an advocate, because you need someone for reminders — you need a squeaky wheel, because a squeaky wheel gets the oil,” she said. “I would need to work with you on how that would play out.”

Foster also agreed with Westgate and Jefcoat.

“We need somebody to point these things out, and an advocate is the person to do that,” he said.”If you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t fix it.”

Dorval admitted he doesn’t always agree with Foster, but on this he does.

“It only makes sense that we create some oversight body that can create attention for these issues,” said Dorval. “I hope it would include people who are living with disability.”

BC Votes 2017