Sunday, September 26, 2021

Candidates promote platforms, exchange jabs at Mulgrave debate

  • August 11 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

MULGRAVE – With one week to go before election day, candidates for the Guysborough-Tracadie riding gathered in Mulgrave to take part in a debate hosted by the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Guysborough and Area Board of Trade.

The debate saw three of the four candidates in the riding – Liberal incumbent Lloyd Hines, PC Greg Morrow and NDP Matt Stickland (Green candidate Gabriel Bruce was absent) – tackle a wide range of questions, compiled from public submissions and put to them by moderator Adam Cooke.

Pandemic recovery

The first question asked candidates to outline their pandemic recovery plan for businesses. Hines noted several things the Liberal government has already put in motion, such as the twinning of the TransCanada Highway, and programs to help agriculture and the creative economy. Morrow discussed party platform points like the Better Pay Cheque Guarantee and Nova Scotia Loyal, a program that rewards people for shopping and buying loyal. Stickland pointed to the NDP’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour to put money in the pockets of consumers who could then support local businesses.

Cochrane Hill mine

Less than half an hour into the debate, candidates were asked if they would support or oppose Atlantic Gold’s proposed mine at Cochrane Hill in the District of St. Mary’s and protection of Archibald Lake. Morrow and Stickland reiterated the answers they had already given the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA) on these points: ‘no’ to mining and ‘yes’ to protection (see article in this edition of The Journal).

Hines, who had not replied to SMRA on these questions said, “For starters, the in-service date for the Cochrane Hill mine is 2026. So, this is a topic for a future election.”

Hines continued, “They haven’t filed their EA (Environmental Assessment) yet, how people can start forming opinions that are valid without having the science around; I’m not one of those people. I have to wait and see what the science says on the project.

“I was happy to include Archibald Lake in the list of protected areas when it was brought forward, and I really don’t know why it’s held up. We’ve already voted on it,” Hines said.

Aulds Cove intersection

Close to the bone for Mulgrave voters is the issue of the intersection in Aulds Cove – where Highway 344 meets Highway 104. The intersection has been a safety concern for years. Hines outlined the numerous measures the Liberal government has enacted over the past year, such as speed feedback signs, highway lights and repainted road markings in the area. In addition to these actions, Hines said there is also a bigger plan in the design phase that will eliminate the problem.

Morrow commented that the above measures “don’t stop trucks from pulling into the Irving Causeway Big Stop. This is an ongoing issue that the town feels they’re being left without a voice on.”

In his comments about the highway safety concern, Stickland said, “Governments of all tiers like to say, ‘We’re working on it. We’re doing it as fast as we can.’ The answer is, ‘No, you’re not.’ If it was a priority, you’d do it.”

Qualities of a leader

Perhaps the most interesting exchange of the evening came about when the candidates were asked to define why their party leader was the best person to lead the province as premier.

Morrow started off the comments by stating that Tim Houston, leader of the PC Party has not only criticized the government in power, “He’s introduced solutions … every time, as opposition leader; he puts out a release criticizing the government, he says ‘This is what we would do better.’”

Stickland characterized NDP leader Gary Burrill as a man who would do the work, who cares a lot and who “is really bad at politics; he’s too kind. It takes a lot of strength to be as compassionate as Gary is.”

Hines outlined his history with Liberal leader Iain Rankin, watching him rise in the government from caucus chair to several cabinet post, adding, “He was taught by the greatest teacher that you could have and that was Stephen McNeil. A lot of Iain’s attitudes and the way that he conducts himself are similar to what Stephen did but not the same. He’s his own man, he’s calm, collected, he gathers information … he’s a tremendous leader.”

In open debate on the question Morrow said, “Stephen McNeil deserves a world of credit for guiding the province through COVID-19. Make no mistake, Iain Rankin is no Stephen McNeil.”

Morrow then turned to Hines and said, “Mr. Hines, who did you endorse in the Nova Scotia Liberal leadership?”

To which Hines replied, “Labi Kousoulis.”

And Stickland interjected, “That’s awkward.”

Morrow continued, “There were three candidates running – Randy Delorey, Iain Rankin and Labi Kousoulis – so that means, unless Lloyd wants to answer who he put second, there’s a 50/50 shot that he put Iain Rankin as his third choice for Liberal leader.”

Healthcare for seniors

Along with the usual questions about healthcare – to which candidates talked about recruitment, retention and expanding the scope of practice for other healthcare providers, such as nurse practitioners – the question of healthcare costs, particularly the cost of medical devices (such as hearing aids, walkers, canes and glasses) was put to the candidates. Morrow discussed the PC Party’s Dignity for Seniors plan, which includes 2,500 new long-term care beds, 2,000 new staff and grants for seniors to stay in their homes.

“These are starting points … Let’s work together to see what we can do to help,” said Morrow.

Stickland said that along with addressing these concerns, governments need to address the false belief that Canadians have universal healthcare. “We have eyes and teeth but apparently those are luxury bones that aren’t covered by anything. It is absolutely insane to me that we think we have universal healthcare but we have to pay for drugs … we have to pay for anything that isn’t essentially emergency medicine. The NDP wants to make sure that we actually have universal healthcare.”

The aging population, and the resulting increased need for healthcare in Nova Scotia, was the talking point Hines turned to when addressing the question. He said, “We need to address that in our policies and that’s what a Liberal government is looking at doing. We are increasing our LPNs, we’re increasing the seats for our nurse practitioners across the province, our midwifery program is being enhanced; there’s a myriad of healthcare improvements in our platform that will enhance our healthcare.”

Closing remarks

In closing remarks Hines indirectly called out his competitors for not living in the riding, stating, “Tracadie [Morrow’s place of residence] is not even in the riding; it refers to the Tracadie River.”

Morrow reacted to the comment by stating that he lived only six kilometers from the riding boundary and has lived in the area for most of his life. He added that he has strong connections in the riding and said, “In rural Nova Scotia, neighbours help neighbours.”

Neighbourliness was a point that Stickland reiterated in his closing remarks, adding, “Your neighbours are suffering, a lot of people are really hurting right now… they need help. And right now, you have a choice of what kind of help you think is best.”

A link to a video recording of the debate is available on the Strait Area Chamber’s Facebook page.