May 03, 2013 - 2:09 PM
All things health—from access to doctors, to the effects of smart meters, to the use of marijuana—were hot topics at an all candidates forum in Armstrong this week.
One resident asked the candidates if they support the SensibleBC Policing Act, which would direct all police in B.C. to stop spending time and resources on searching, seizing or arresting anyone for simple cannabis possession.
Conservative candidate Tom Birch said his party is for decriminalization. "There is no sense in giving someone with an ounce of marijuana a criminal record for life," he said.
Green candidate Chris George said British Columbians are "sick of the body count" associated with marijuana and organized crime.
"We can address that with decriminalization and strict regulation on the sale of marijuana," George said. "But full decriminalization will have to come at the federal level."
NDP candidate Steve Gunner echoed the points made by his colleagues, adding that local mayors and councillors are also showing support for decriminalization.
Greg Kyllo of the Liberal Party was the lone opposition to decriminalization, saying more emphasis needs to be placed on education about the drug, especially among youth.
Two elderly residents voiced concern about the effects of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) from smart meters and cell phones.
"We'll have to wait and see the (health) costs, but I'm not seeing it," Kyllo said. The Liberal candidate added "there must be some facts around the issue" but he "hasn't seen the data."
Kyllo supports the installation of smart meters because he says they better allow people to monitor their energy usage. "When looking at opportunities to reduce electricity use, having the ability to measure is essential."
Birch is opposed to the smart meter program primarily because of how the government went about implementing it.
"We forced them on people without any consultation," he said. "People tell me they're living in fear.... Personally, I'm not afraid, but that's irrelevant."
Birch said he hopes to provide an opt-out alternative.
George agreed a choice on smart meters is crucial. He added it would be prudent to conduct government funded research on the health impacts associated with EMFs.
"We need to make sure the proponents have done their homework to show there's no harm," George said. "We're living in the largest uncontrolled experiment in history."
Gunner reported that 30 per cent of people spoken to during his door to door campaigns wanted to opt out.
"There are as many myths around smart meters as there are facts," Gunner said, adding university level studies should be funded by the government. "The real issue is the mismanagement of B.C. Hydro."
Questions about health care services emerged several times, with an emphasis on rural care.
"The Green Party takes the approach of building health into health care," George said, noting healthy local food is a big part of that.
He said allocating more nurse practitioners for home care would lessen the need for people to visit the hospital at all.
Kyllo said travelling 20 minutes from Enderby to the hospital in Salmon Arm isn't so bad when you consider the equally long trips made by people in cities like Vancouver. He expressed concern, however, about the impact driving away for health care has on local economies. When people visit the hospital in another town, they likely do their grocery shopping and other errands there as well, he said.
Residents also expressed concerns about the transparency of government expenditures. Kyllo said the area needs improvement, but doubted whether all government documents could be made public. "I don't see that as an option," he said.
Birch said the government needs to "regain the public's trust" by publicly publishing all MLA receipts. "I do it already with my campaign expenses," he said.
Gunner said his party would make sure staff don't use personal emails to conceal the government's agenda.
"It all starts with respecting that people actually elected you," Gunner said. "We will run the government as if we were running out households."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013