After speaking to the gathered crowd, and in between the next part of the campaign tour, Baillie sat down with Tri-County Vanguard editor Tina Comeau for a few minutes to answer questions pertaining to campaign issues he raised and ones raised in southwestern Nova Scotia. Here is the Q&A:
QUESTION: You’ve talked about negotiating a better deal for the Nova Scotia-New England ferry service. Part of what you see is the cargo issue. The City of Portland says no commercial trucks can come to its ferry terminal. How do you address that?
BAILLIE: “We need to separate those two. I want to make a better deal and I believe we can do that with the current operator and the current boat and that is the smoothest way forward. I believe we can do it because I do think we can restructure the deal so that the operator takes up some of the risk that currently is all on the taxpayers. That’s where we’re starting. I still believe in the expert panel recommendations, that you should look at cargo and you should look at overnight accommodations (on the boat) and as we go through the next few years, and a boat like that turns up, then of course we’re going to talk to Portland about that at that time.”
QUESTION: When it comes to numbers on the boat, do you agree any marketing shouldn’t all fall on the ferry operator, that it also falls with the marketing efforts of the province?
BAILLIE: “Oh, absolutely. One thing that we haven’t talked about is how much we want to continue the marketing effort.”
QUESTION: You have said you would like to strike a current deal with the operator but you have also said if you can’t you would seek another operator. What if there is no other operator?
BAILLIE: “Well there’s many and I do believe we can make a deal with the current operator.”
QUESTION: So if there’s many operators, why didn’t they all apply for the RFPs?
BAILLIE “I can’t explain that. To be perfectly honest, I think the McNeil government messed up the whole process. There were other consortiums that came forward that they didn’t look at. They waited so late into the season that they were signing deals literally at the last minute. No good deal can be made under those circumstances. Our process will be more business like so that we can get a better deal from a more business like start.”
QUESTION: One issue in this area that was an issue leading into this election – and it’s still outstanding – is the issue of the electoral boundaries. Ideally people would have liked to have seen ridings in this election that represented the minority ridings again. If elected, how would you address the issue and the court decision?
BAILLIE: “It needs to be addressed and it should have been addressed before this election was called. Stephen McNeil had months to ensure that the boundaries reflected the constitution and he brushed that aside. Now the taxpayers are being sued by the Acadian federation. I wish this had been dealt with. It’s not even just an Acadian issue. Now every voter is wondering whether the boundaries are constitutionally or not, that’s kind of embarrassing when you think about it in a modern democracy. And shame on (the government) because they had a choice. They could have fixed this before the election and choose not to.
QUESTION: So what would you do as premier to correct that?
BAILLIE: “We’re going to get a boundary commission going as soon as we can after the election and we will do our best to ensure it’s independent and fair and respects the constitution of Canada.”
QUESTION: In your speech today you spoke about health care and making sure that decisions aren’t all made in Halifax and that it’s better if decisions are made in local areas. So what are you proposing there?
BAILLIE: “The Nova Scotia Health Authority is not working for people. It is too top down, it’s too bureaucratic and it’s all in Halifax. As a result there are regions of this province that do not get the resources that they need, they don’t have the family doctors they need or the specialists they need. For me, I want to push that decision-making and accountability down into the regional hospital level, like here in Yarmouth, where community input can be provided by a local board that the hospital CEO and chief medical officer report to. In that way, whatever resources we do have, are better matched to community need.”
QUESTION: So would it be kind of like going back to a South West Health district model?
BAILLIE: “No, I’m not looking to unscramble the egg, I don’t think that’s practical. I don’t want to put our health care system or its workers through a whole other reorganization. There are four zones within the health authority and they become bureaucracy by the back door. Let’s take those people and put them into the regional hospitals and make them accountable for delivering local health care.”
QUESTION: Are you promising, if you are premier, a doctor for every Nova Scotian? And how can you achieve what the Liberals couldn’t? Doctor recruitment is tricky and difficult.
BAILLIE: “It is tricky so no, I can't make that promise, that was an irresponsible promise that Stephen McNeil made and that is not my style. We’re going to do our best and we do have a very aggressive doctor recruitment strategy that includes doubling the tuition relief program, which actually gets doctors into rural areas. We’re going to do our best to close the gap. But I’m obviously stopping short of making an irresponsible promise and I think people will appreciate that.”
QUESTION: When you were introduced today it was mentioned that you were chief of staff for Premier John Hamm and the attention that was focused on the education system. What do you see as the most challenging issue facing the education system today and where do you think things fell of the rails?
BAILLIE: “Where I think it fell apart is government stopped listening to teachers. Teachers are in our classrooms every day, they are well educated people. We should trust them to manage their classrooms and that is not what’s happening. And it definitely got a lot worse under Stephen McNeil who not only didn’t listen to them but actually lost their trust in the way he treated them. Our platform calls for repealing Bill 75, which is for us to reach out to teachers and show them we want to work with them. We are absolutely going to invest in more education assistants on Day 1, which will help kids that are struggling in class. There are also a lot of no-cost policies that we can put in place to help teachers teach. There is a no fail policy in this province, kids gets passed from year to year whether they’ve earned it or not. I think that’s actually cruel to the student. It delays problems until later in life. We’ll make it as a matter of law illegal to have a no fail policy and we will trust teachers to make those difficult decisions at the end of the year and we’ll be a government that has their back when they do. Same for discipline policies, same for attendance policies. We will put in place rigorous policies in those areas and then trust teachers to enforce them. That goes a long way to make our classrooms safer and more conducive to learning.”
QUESTION: The council to improve classroom conditions, they have made recommendations. Do you agree with the recommendations they’ve made or would you scrap all that?
BAILLIE: “No, we’re going to sit down with teachers and work out which ones to proceed with. To me, none of that was new in the last three months. The McNeil government has had three and a half years with teachers saying the exact same thing, that council was just cosmetics at the end of their mandate. Having said that, it has brought forward some positive things and I look forward to implementing the positive ones.”