While health care is a provincial responsibility, it’s one that hasn’t been lost on the voters in Cumberland-Colchester.
It’s something the candidates say they are hearing on the doorsteps from one end of the riding to the other and one they spoke about during an Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum in Amherst on Tuesday night.
Jody O’Blenis of the Veterans Coalition of Canada said he has a child with breathing problems and he has spent hours waiting at the emergency department at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre for his son to be cared for.
“It’s an issue from Pugwash, to Truro, Stewiacke and everywhere else,” O’Blenis said. “We have to look for ways to recruit and retain more doctors from where ever we can get them. We have to look at Dalhousie University and encourage its graduates to stay in Nova Scotia.
“In Pugwash, they’re lucky to have one doctor one day a week. That can’t continue.”
O’Blenis said by working with Dalhousie University’s medical school he hopes ERs in rural communities such as Pugwash, Parrsboro, Springhill and Tatamagouche can get sufficient doctors to stay open more than they’re closed.
Conservative candidate Scott Armstrong said he has been campaigning since January and the Number 1 issue at the door is health care.
“When you talk to seniors, young families, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters, the lack of family doctors in this riding is shocking,” Armstrong said. “It doesn't matter what end of the riding you’re in, your social class or what you do for a living, the lack of family doctors is damaging our riding and has to be taken care of.”
While it’s a provincial responsibility, he said, the federal government has a role to play in increase social transfers to the provinces so they can put money into physician recruitment and retention while investing in new MRIs and CT scanners.
Bill Archer of the People’s Party of Canada said health care is a provincial issue, but there is a federal role.
“Saying that we want to reform what we do. Currently our health transfer is $40 billion and the federal government collects about $40 billion in GST. We want to implement a tax credit system that allows the provinces to keep their GST and get rid of layers of government handling of money that should be going into the health care system.”
Archer said the PPC also wants to change the Canada Health Act to allow provinces to find innovative solutions.
“If I’m sick I don’t care where the help comes from as long as there is someone there to help me,” he said.
Liberal candidate Lenore Zann also believes health care is important as is investing in seniors so they can live with respect and dignity. She supports a national pharmacare program and is committed to increasing the Canada Pension Plan, Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security.
“This will go a long toward helping our seniors,” she said. “We need to put money into long-term care. The province has not been doing that. When I was an MLA for 10 years, I was proud of my NDP government for building long-term care beds, but that stopped under the provincial government that’s there now.”
She’s happy the federal government is putting more money into affordable housing and investing in women living in violent situations.
Jason Blanch of the Green Party said his party supports a national pharmacare program that covers all Canadians. It will be expensive to implement, but savings will be found so all Canadians can get their medication.
“Two million Canadians lack medicine,” he said. “People are making tough decisions about heating their homes, feeding their families or buying their medicine. When you look into they don’t buy their medicine or ration it. That puts them in the emergency rooms and frequent trips to the doctor.”
Blanch said the Green Party supports a universal system that supports marginalized Canadians and the poorest people and that’s extended to a guaranteed income and free tuition.
The Green Party candidate added the time has come to take the challenge crisis seriously while also fixing the democratic system in fighting for proportional representation.
He said people cannot fear change and taking risk when it comes to changing their attitude toward the environment.
“Show a little courage, like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. They knew the risks, but they were willing to take the risks to bring about change,” Blanch said, adding his party is not about one issue, it’s about Canada. “People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King didn’t change the world, but they changed people and got people to believe world could be different and to make changes.”
The Liberals talk about climate change, Blanch said, but they bought a pipeline while the Conservatives want to build pipelines.
Zann said a Liberal government will remain committed to fighting climate change.
“We have seen the effects of pollution and at the same time we’re seeing a ramp up of the effects of climate changes. The scientific consensus is we have 10 years to turn things around,” she said. “Pollution cannot be free. The big emitters need to pay. We have to put a price on pollution and they need to carry their weight.”