Homelessness, poverty and harm-reduction issues were centre stage as five byelection candidates squared off Wednesday over how they would advocate for marginalized Victorians.
Citizens who are poor and homeless are fueling a national health-care crisis but the only mention of poverty in the Conservatives last budget was a sentence to dismantle the 50-year-old National Council of Welfare, said Green party candidate Donald Galloway.
Thats the world that were living in, with even advisers on poverty getting the boot, Galloway told about 200 people who attended the event, hosted by the Downtown Service Providers, at the First Metropolitan Church.
We have ideologies ruling rather than structures that actually assist us to cope, said Galloway, pledging to testify at Parliament on behalf of the people who have no voice.
NDP candidate Murray Rankin said he is absolutely appalled by Ottawas lack of commitment to a national poverty-reduction act.
Similarly, he said, the lack of a national housing strategy is one reason why annual services to a homeless person can total $55,000 but not include housing.
The focus must be getting people off the streets and into homes where they can be safe, supported and get help to get clean if needed, he said. And the Conservatives went to the Supreme Court of Canada trying to shut down a safe place to inject drugs, Rankin added.
Liberal candidate Paul Summerville continued his anti-sewage treatment focus, saying that the billion-dollar boondoggle could make poverty more intractable. If we waste a billion dollars with no benefit, it will make the public less willing to sacrifice for the public good, including poverty, he said.
Rankin said he would never forget a tearful Vic West woman unable to take a job because she could not find suitable child care another national policy long overdue, he said. I will fight for that, he said.
Christian Heritage candidate Philip Ney advocated that parents be paid to do the caring. Intuitively, they understand the child better [than care providers].
When Conservative candidate Dale Gann said it was appalling how much parents even those who are doing well struggle with childcare, a member of the audience yelled: Tell that to your government.
Youre damn right Ill take that to Ottawa, Gann replied.
Summerville said that every female who graduates from the University of Victoria will end up earning 35 per cent less than their male counterparts even when theyre better due to the lack of a national childcare strategy.
Libertarian Art Lowe was not at the event.
Former Victoria MP Denise Savoie retired from politics on Aug. 31. The NDP has held the seat since 2006; the Liberals held it for 13 years before that.
Victoria voters go to the polls on Nov. 26.
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