Yesterday morning, I got an email about a federal election all-candidates forum on disability and accessibility happening after work near my home. Interpreters had already been arranged for this event which was also going to have real-time captioning. My best excuse for not going would have been, “I wanted to stay home, pet the cats and eat Nanaimo bars.”
So, I got to experience what most people get to experience when it comes to town hall forums: I did not have to contact anybody beforehand to inquire about accessibility. I just showed up! So, this is what it’s like for most people? Wow!
Of the ten candidates in my federal riding of Victoria, just four made an appearance: Liberal’s Nikki Macdonald, Green’s Racelle Kooy, People’s Party of Canada’s Alyson Culbert, and NDP’s Laurel Collins. The ten questions asked during this forum came from various organizations for the disabled. Each candidate had 90 seconds for each question. Additionally, the candidates were each given two opportunities to follow-up on an opponent’s answer.
Culbert’s hubris was jaw-dropping. It was clear that she had not bothered to consider disability issues before the invitation to the forum on… disability and accessibility. Culbert used her 90 seconds on a question to mention the time she met a paraplegic and saw him as a person before his disabilities. In other words, she spoke for 90 seconds too long.
Why do abled people think disabled people appreciate being told that their identity is inconsequential? How can somebody like Culbert push for legislation that helps the disabled community if she’s not going to consider the inequalities and barriers we face?
(Also, she’s retweeted Paul Joseph Watson and Charlie Kirk. Wtf? Learning of this kinda makes me wish I had thrown a shoe at her head last night. Fortunately, she has FEWER followers on Twitter than I do.)
Kooy responded to Culbert’s comment by saying–and I’m paraphrasing– “What you just said concerns me greatly: disability and accessibility are at the centre of tonight’s discussion, and for you to say you don’t see “disability” is to deny that barriers exist for the community.”
Macdonald confirmed my opinion of the Liberal Party when she answered the question about decriminalizing sex work by suggesting that young women needed more support when it comes to employment opportunities. “I don’t want my daughter to think she needs to get into sex work if she struggles to find work elsewhere.”
After Macdonald’s 90 seconds were up, I looked over at Kristina who was sitting next to me. Kristina then said what I was thinking: “Wrong answer!”
By sharing her concerns about her daughter’s future, Macdonald was trying to make us agree with her. The Liberal Party doesn’t listen to their constituents: why would they need to if they already know what’s best for us?
Culbert, Kooy, and Collins all stated that they supported the decriminalization of sex work. It was Collins who brought up how she had discussed the decriminalization of sex work with… sex workers. YES. This is what a good politician does: talk to those who are directly affected rather than roll with their prejudices.
More than once, Kooy admitted when she didn’t have enough knowledge to give an informed answer to a question. But, it doesn’t matter how receptive Kooy insists she is, the candidate who has actively engaged with members of the disabled community long before last night’s forum is the person I’d trust the most to represent the interests of the community, and that’s Collins.
Although Collins was last night’s standout, I’m not ready to pull a Culbert and claim omniscience. 20 days is still plenty of time to rub me the wrong way.