TRURO – Gary Burrill, NDP candidate for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, joined www.trurodaily.com on Tuesday afternoon to connect directly to voters.
People visiting the Truro Daily News website were given an opportunity to submit a question to Burrill during a half-hour session on Tuesday afternoon and receive an immediate answer, expressing his point of view.
Q. What is the NDP's long-term plan for young people of N.S. that cannot find full-time work and that have large student loan debt?
A. The one key immediate program has been the graduate program rebate. This program encourages students to stay in Nova Scotia. This program offers significant income tax rebates over multiple years in order to encourage NS graduates to stay in the province. N.S. tuition rates relative to the Canadian average are not quite as bad as they were a few years ago, but student indebtedness remains one of the great challenges before our province.
Q. What‘s the most common concern you’ve heard from voters during your canvassing?
A. Inadequacy of income. The purchasing power of most people's incomes has been stagnant or in decline for over two decades. The pressure this places on households of average or less than average income is the major issue confronting the people of the constituency I serve.
Q. With health boards in this province consisting of 10 CEOs, 72 vice presidents and hundreds of managers, why won’t your party agree to reduce their number?
A. Two main reasons. One, amalgamations usually do not actually achieve the efficiencies that their advocates claim. BY the time you re-organize the whole health administration with all the severance payouts and everything else that would entail, creating a single health board would be more costly in the end. Second reason, I am in favour of health policy decisions in Nova Scotia not being made all from Halifax, as would inevitable be the case with a single health board.
Q. What will the NDP do to address issues facing men and boys? Like the declining enrollment of men in university, the high suicide rates of young men, the higher rates of death due to disease, court bias against fathers in custody cases and the way men have been harder hit by the economic downturn?
A. High rates of suicide are a very deep concern. One of the most important achievements of the NDP government since 2009 has been the establishment of Nova Scotia's first mental health and addictions strategy. The strategy is one of the components of our record of which I am most proud.
Q. The PCs want to expand the use of ankle bracelets, traceable by police through GPS, for criminals convicted of serous crimes. How do you feel about this?
A. This is an area that clearly shows the fundamental differences there are between Progressive Conservatives and the NDP. The Conservative emphasis, as we see very much with the Harper government is on punishment and the expansion of the apparatus of corrections. The NDP emphasis is rather on social policy that targets prevention.
Q. What accomplishments are you most proud of and where have you fallen short?
A. I am particularly proud of the fact that seniors in Nova Scotia who receive the GIS no longer pay any provincial income tax. I am also extremely proud that since May of this year, children may now have their trips to the dentist covered by MSI up to the age of 13.I would hope that if we are given a second term our efforts to improve the situations of people in poverty will be redoubled and advanced with even more force.
Q. What will your party do to help the farming industry in Nova Scotia?
A. Our Farm Next program brings new resources to bringing new entrants and younger people into farming in N.S. N.S. is the only province in Canada to have seen a net increase in registered farmers in recent years.
Q. What would you do to help reduce Nova Scotia’s record $14 billion debt?
A. Virtually every jurisdiction in the western world carries debt. The question is not debt levels by themselves, but debt levels relative to the size of our economy. Our ratio of debt to economic size is quite positive, and this is one reason why our provincial credit rating has recently been established so exceptionally.