Housing, health care, the environment, roads, internet service and the economy were among the topics discussed at the South Shore-St. Margaret’s candidates’ debate held September 8 at the Best Western Hotel in Cookville.
Sparring off over two-and-a-half hours were the Liberals’ Bernadette Jordan, who is looking for another term as the riding’s MP; Rick Perkins, PC candidate; Thomas Trappenberg for the Green Party; and the NDP’s Olivia Dorey.
Emcee for the event was Blair Lipsett, vice-president of the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event. It was sponsored by the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.
The candidates exchanged a few jabs, but for the most part they stuck to their scripts in answering the questions they had been given ahead of time.
Questions later taken from the floor dealt with balancing the budget, care for veterans, conversion therapy, gender-based violence, immigration, as well as the economy and how each party plans to leave a legacy for future generations.
Commenting on the housing crisis, Perkins said a PC government would build a million new housing units over the next three years by trying to get the private sector to move its capital more towards rental and housing through such means as tax incentives.
Jordan said the Liberal government has been working with “all levels of government” on the issue and is investing $4 billion in a new housing accelerator fund to help build more homes faster. A re-elected government will also work with municipalities to identify empty spaces in their areas and invest in the conversion of empty spaces into market-based housing, she said. Further, there are plans to invest in building or renovating 1.4 million homes across the country by 2026. It would also ban blind bidding on properties.
Dorey insisted “we need dramatic intervention now.
“Neighbours don’t need more round tables, they need action right now,” she said.
She added the government has had six years to address the problems, but there are still people living in tents, and housing costs continue to increase while wages do not.
Dorey indicated the NDP would build half a million units of affordable housing and wants to waive the federal portion of the sales tax on the purchase of homes.
Trappenberg saw shelter as a human right and said municipalities should be responsible to provide housing. He also said there were other options that could be explored, such as tiny homes.
In answer to what many suggest is now a crisis in health care, Jordan echoed the Liberals’ plan to invest $6 billion more on top of the $4 billion already committed to support the elimination of health system wait lists. Moreover, she said, her government will also invest $3.2 billion to hire 7,500 more health care professionals.
The Liberals also are strategizing to make Canada more attractive by offering student loan forgiveness to professionals who practise in rural Canada, noted Jordan, as well as by investing more in telehealth and making it easier for inter-provincial migrants as well as immigrants with the proper medical qualifications to practise in Canada.
Jordan indicated they would also hire 50,000 more support workers with a high minimum wage to get them in the workforce.
Dorey suggested the pandemic has exposed huge gaps in the health care system, which, she said, was in crisis mode even before COVID-19 hit in earnest. She suggested there’s no longer such a thing as universal health care with so many things that aren’t covered for people.
However she agreed that immigrant accreditation is an area that needs tackling to help with the lack of doctors. “We don’t want doctors (from another country) driving taxis.”
On the subject of temporary foreign workers, Perkins noted there is a shortage of workers on the South Shore and postulated that the issue was “exacerbated by the introduction of the CERB or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
“We need to start getting people back to work,” he said.
Jordan was adamant in her response. “I can’t believe someone would say that. We put money in place to allow people to have food on the table and a roof over their heads during a global pandemic,” she countered.
Jordan suggested the economy is recovering, “but people are making different choices. We need to make sure workers are available and I think the best way forward is immigration.”
Trappenberg provided perhaps the most candid closing message among the candidates. He admitted it was “highly unlikely” he would win in the election, though he still encouraged people to vote for Green.
“Why vote Green if I have little chance to win? It is not a lotto. But voting Green is saying to all parties that we want more visionary actions and [to] move into the 21st century,” said Trappenberg.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin