It was a return engagement for New Democratic Party candidate Larry Duchesne and Liberal candidate Kenny John Jackson, who were joined by Atlantica Party candidate Michael “Thor” Lengies. Progressive Conservative candidate Jamie Baillie, who also happens to be the party’s leader, was not present but sent Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley candidate Larry Harrison in his place.
Each candidate was give time for opening remarks, and then responded to questions from the students. Duchesne delivered the most spending commitments from his party’s platform, and in turn received the most questions from the students on how the NDP would pay for things like raising the minimum wage, offering free community college tuition and $15 per day daycare spaces.
“It all comes down to a choice,” said Duchesne. “We can choose a government that wants to balance the budget, or we can choose a government that wants to invest in people and deal with the crises we are in now. If we need to run a deficit for the next few years to deal with the crises we are in with education and health care, then we are prepared to do that.”
Revamping the health care system is a priority for the PC party, according to Harrison, who said there are not enough doctors to cover the number of people who need health care in the province.
“One of our major concerns is getting enough doctors and using what we have to its best possible use,” he said. “The plan for the PC party is to make sure more doctors are being hired. We will double the tuition relief program for doctors and nurse practitioners that commit to serving rural communities and underserviced communities. We need rural doctors and we need them badly.”
Jackson spoke a lot about his background as a Springhiller and his career as a police officer and member of the armed forces. He mentioned his party’s commitment to put $2.8 million into recruiting and retaining doctors, and said his priorities include capitalizing more on tourism opportunities for the Parrsboro shore and improving roads in Cumberland South.
“We need to do all we can to repair roads, especially in rural areas,” said Jackson, who took a jab at Baillie for choosing to not live in the riding. “It seems we get overlooked in rural areas, and I don’t know if that’s because we haven’t had a local voice. I’m not blaming the MLA, but maybe the government is not hearing the real concerns when it comes to roads if you’re not on them.”
Lengies said that Nova Scotia needs to be operated in a self-sustaining way, pointing out to the students that each of them already owes $16,000 because of current government debt, and that that number would increase with all of the spending commitments from the other parties.
He spoke about issues ranging from health care to tourism, agriculture and energy, all of which he believes can be managed with more efficiency for the long-term.
“We live in the greatest place in the world, but it can only get better,” said Lengies. “We have to turn to a direction that sustains for your kids into the future.”