MLA Candidates Debate Seniors Issues

·4 min read

Two MLA hopefuls for the riding of Lethbridge-East discussed numerous challenges facing Lethbridge’s senior population.

Incumbent MLA, Nathan Neudorf of the United Conservative Party, joined former city councillor, Rob Miyashiro of the New Democratic Party, as the two spoke at the Nord-Bridge Senior Centre on April 24, 2023.

Healthcare was front and centre during the open forum, as both candidates touched on their party’s platform.

Miyashiro was the first to go on attack, saying the UCP has failed Alberta’s senior population when it comes to the healthcare policies.

“There will be no eradication of the public healthcare plan in Alberta by an NDP government,” said Miyashiro.

However, Neudorf says the UCP has already ensured the current healthcare system will remain intact.

“No cost will be charged to any patient for anything covered under the public health act,” said Neudorf.

The incumbent MLA says the platform was made clear in the 2023 Alberta budget since an additional $2 billion is set to be spent directly on healthcare across the province.

“We’ve funded a pilot project right here in Lethbridge to see doctors being trained right here at our university,” said Neudorf.

He says this is a program that will not only help train new doctors in the province, but it will keep them in Lethbridge as well, helping reduce the current doctor shortage problem that plagues many people in the city.

“Somewhere between 65 and 70 per cent of doctors trained in their rural or regional locality end up staying and practicing there,” said Neudorf.

However, Miyashiro says his party will see public healthcare become even stronger with the NDP.

“A Rachel Notley government will make this a foundational issue,” said Miyashiro.

He says the NDP will build upon the healthcare system, without sacrificing any services.

“We’re going to make sure that we don’t have a two-tier health system and we’re going to make sure that it is the kind of health system that was intended,” said Miyashiro.

Furthermore, the former city councillor says the NDP will continue their work on implementing a social prescribing system in the Alberta.

He says this system is paramount to help the government better take care of senior citizens throughout the province, so the NDP will bring greater focus to it.

“[We will] create a social prescribing system in Alberta that’s made in Alberta for Albertans,” said Miyashiro.

In fact, he says Lethbridge is leading the work in this system across the province already.

“Senior Community Services Partnership in Lethbridge was recognized in a national social prescribing report last year as a best practice,” said Miyashiro.

Neudorf says healthcare also extends to social and mental issues as well, saying his government has taken great strides to ensure elder abuse goes the way of the dodo.

“Discrimination based on age is never acceptable,” said Neudorf.

He says the UCP government understands the needs of seniors in the province and they will continue to find new ways to help them.

“We look forward to increasing our presence in this area,” said Neudorf.

Another important issue brought up during the debate was the ability for senior citizens to choose where to live.

George Berg, the Nord-Bridge Senior Centre Board President, asked the candidates about the financial support each party will provide to seniors choosing to live at home.

“If elected, would your party support continued financial support for seniors which allows them to remain in their homes?”

Miyashiro responded to this question by saying the UCP has failed seniors by removing the indexing on the seniors’ benefits program.

“They took that indexing out at the last budget. That creates hardship for seniors,” said Miyashiro.

He also says the NDP will ensure the Canada Pension plan remains.

“An NDP government would introduce legislation to protect your CPP,” said Miyashiro.

However, Neudorf refuted this by saying the UCP has in fact reintroduced the index to seniors’ benefits.

“Early on in 2019, we did reduce the indexation for the seniors’ benefit … Now, I’m very happy to say that in budget 2023, we reindexed that and topped it up with a six per cent increase,” said Neudorf.

Both Neudorf and Miyashiro say they will continue to support senior citizens in Lethbridge, noting that their parties will ensure safety and security for our aging population.

Residents in the Lethbridge-West riding will get to see their candidates hold similar talks on May 5, 2023, at the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.

Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald