TRURO - Karen Casey, incumbent Liberal candidate for Colchester North, is bringing about seven years experience in the legislature with her on the campaign trail.
Colchester North Liberal candidate Karen Casey.
She recently stopped by the Truro Daily News office to participate in an online question and answer session with potential voters, hosted by the newspaper.
During the 30-minute interactive exchange Casey shared her views on gas taxes, education, tourism, health and more.
Q. Health. Education. You've been minister of both. Which is the toughest portfolio?
A. These two portfolios are the two largest within government and the two largest budgets. They both deliver direct services, whether in our heath-care facilities and our schools. My background in education served me well in that portfolio; there was obviously a steeper learning curve as minister of health. But I took some advice from my sister, who is a nurse, and that advice was, ‘Listen to the people who are the professionals and learn from them.'
Q. What is the Liberal position on gas taxes?
A. We have continually spoke about the tax on tax and coupling the two together is a hardship for many Nova Scotians. A Liberal government under Stephen McNeil would undergo a comprehensive review of the complete tax structure within our province. We recognize that if we are to attract new businesses or keep the ones we have, then our tax regime must be competitive with other provinces.
Q. You are a former teacher. Should retired teachers be allowed to return to the classroom as substitutes while unemployed younger teachers remain on the sidelines?
A. There are many situations throughout our rural communities where principals find it difficult to get substitute teachers and the distance travelled is often a factor for teachers to consider. There may be a retired teacher in that community who can be ready on a moment's notice to come into the classroom and in situations like that principals may not have another choice. However, I have always encouraged principals to give our new graduates opportunities. They bring much enthusiasm and new ideas into the classroom.
Q. What's the most common concern you've heard from voters during your canvassing?
A. Voters often begin the conversation at the door by expressing their concern about the current government's performance during the last four years. They talk about the importance of building our economy through job creation so our young people are able to stay in Nova Scotia and have meaningful employment. A Liberal government is committed to working with small business and with apprentices so together they can help to build the economy. The basis for everything that we do in this province is a strong economy and we have the talent, the will and the expertise here in Nova Scotia if we provide the right supports to keep our small communities alive.
Q. Let's talk about Liberals proposed reduction in the number of Nova Scotia health boards. Reports suggest this hasn't saved money when introduced in Alberta and New Brunswick. In fact, due to severance packages, health-care costs even increased. How do you figure it will work better here?
A. We have limited dollars within this province and it is important that we use those dollars more wisely. Within the health-care funding envelope many of those dollars go towards administration. A Liberal government will redirect those dollars into frontline health care providers like doctors, nurses, technicians and others. The Harper government has already announced that health transfer payments to this province will be reduced by approximately by $90 million annually.
With an aging population and greater demands on our health-care system we need to ensure that we have the dollars to deliver the services that we need and deserve. It is important to bring decision making closer to the communities in which we live and part of the new model does include strengthening the role of community health boards and operating with four distinct regions similar to the four regional health boards that proved to be very effective in the past.
Q. Tourism numbers have not been strong in recent years, so what can you do to help the thousands of people depending on that industry to make an income?
A. Let me begin by saying that the decision to cancel the subsidy for the ferry service in Yarmouth was one of the biggest mistakes of the NDP government and has done lasting damage to many of our tourist operators across the province.
These small operators depended on a flow of visitors from May to November and many of these visitors entered the province through Yarmouth and enjoyed the beauty of the province and the hospitality of our communities. Because of the natural beauty we have in this province we have much to share and an effective tourism strategy that includes marketing around the world will bring people here and that boost to our rural economy will help the small operators survive and thrive.
Q. Comments including your picture along with Stephen McNeil's are on the back of a flier recently distributed in Colchester North by Jamie Baillie. What comments do you have?
A. I had an opportunity to see the flier and many of the voters I spoke with today (Oct. 3), tell me they are neither influenced, nor impressed by that style of campaigning. In fact, they consider it to be desperate, immature and mean-spirited. It begs the question why the concerns and issues in Colchester North are not a priority for the leader