STELLARTON – All nine Pictou County candidates vying to keep or gain a spot in the province's legislature gathered for a discussion, Q&A and debate Friday morning.
From left: Glennie Langille, Pat Dunn, Tim Houston, Ross Landry, chamber director Jack Kyte, François Rochon, Bill Muirhead, Charlie Parker and Clarrie MacKinnon gathered at the Holiday Inn in Stellarton for an all-candidates question and answer discussion hosted by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Friday. Karla MacFarlane also took part but is not pictured here. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
The event was organized by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce and held at the Holiday Inn Express in Stellarton. The Q&A was moderated by Jack Kyte, executive director of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce.
“On behalf of the chamber we want to thank these candidates for running to represent people here in Pictou County,” he said.
In what Kyte called a general information session, rather than debate, a member from each party first laid out their party’s stance on issues relative to the business community for 15 minutes. This was followed by a question and answer session to field questions about the parties or promises to the candidates.
Liberal Party candidate Glennie Langille for Pictou West started things off by speaking for her party, noting it was time for someone with small business owner experience as premier.
“I’ve known Stephen [McNeil] for nine years and he wanted to work for himself in his community and that says a lot about him,” said Langille. “It underscores his strong work ethic and his knowledge of the challenges faced by businesses.”
She touched on NS Power noting a Liberal plan for government direction and a break of the monopoly are needed, stating the power company reacts to legislation and regulation, not its customers. On education, she noted that those currently in school are the workforces of the future.
“You’ll see the biggest single expenditure of our party is around education.”
Tim Houston, PC candidate for Pictou East, spoke on behalf of the Tories and outlined his party’s plan to scrap MLAs’ pensions.
“Our party is the only party willing to make that commitment and lead by example,” said Houston. “We will lower taxes, freeze power rates, stop wasteful government spending and create jobs because we have to.”
He noted the PC plan to cut administrative costs in the health care and education departments to focus funds on the classroom and on reducing wait times. He also stated the need for an environment where small businesses can thrive.
“Seventy-five hundred Nova Scotians have left the province,” said Houston. “They used to be our neighbours and now they are gone and their houses are still for sale.”
Pictou Centre NDP candidate and incumbent Ross Landry spoke of his party’s policies while defending the government’s record. He emphasized with a small diagram that four years is hardly enough time to undo the wrongs of previous Liberal and PC governments.
“We came into office in the middle of the worst economic recession since the great depression,” Landry said. “This was following two decades of the worst economic performance of any province. We had to get this province back to balance and we did.”
He noted the government’s commitment to jobs in Pictou County, such as DSME in Trenton and the jail in Priestville. The latter, Landry said, former MLA Pat Dunn did not support. He said that the NDP government’s model for health care has become the envy of other provinces and that the government’s investment in Nova Scotia’s businesses has been sound.
“Is there anyone here who really thinks that not investing in Northern Pulp, that that’s a good thing for Pictou County?” Landry asked. “Is there one business here that wouldn’t be dramatically affected if we didn’t do that?”
The Q&A started with a question from Beth Leadbetter of Leadbetter Painting about reforms to workers’ compensation. Pictou East NDP candidate Clarrie MacKinnon said he shared Leadbetter’s frustration with rising premiums despite no accidents.
“I firmly believe that the whole workers’ compensation system needs to be re-evaluated,” he said.
MacFarlane concurred with MacKinnon saying changes to the board that occurred in the 1990s weren’t for the better. François Rochon, Liberal candidate for Pictou East, said injured workers were treated like dirt.
Another question focused on education and asked how students could graduate from the school system with a Grade 9 reading level.
Langille noted that teachers nowadays have so many different teaching plans for specific students that their focus is sometimes split. NDP candidate for Pictou West Charlie Parker said that funding for schools remains strong.
“We've lost 30,000 students in Nova Scotia over the past ten years but funding has dropped only one per cent,” he stated. “We are putting more money into the classrooms.”
Other topics discussed included school closures, property assessments systems, funding for DSTN and the Pictou County governance study.
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