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Candidates grilled on health care platforms

Posted: May 15, 2018

Candidates in the upcoming June provincial election took part in their first local debate Thursday night. From left is Liberal Margaret Schleier Stahl, Green Party Mark Vercouteren, NDP Jordan McGrail and sitting PC MPP Rick Nicholls.

In the first official debate for the Chatham-Kent Leamington provincial election candidates, they were asked questions on local health concerns such as water quality, hospital funding and support for children with special needs.

Sponsored by the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition and the local chapter of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), the debate focused on health care issues with questions from the audience of about 50 people at Smitty’s Restaurant in Chatham.

Four candidates attended, including sitting MPP Rick Nicholls (Progressive Conservative), NDP Jordan McGrail, Green Party Mark Vercouteren and Liberal Margaret Schleier Stahl.

With a theme of making sure people of Chatham-Kent have the health care they need and deserve, candidates were given three minutes for opening statements.

Nicholls opened remarks, speaking about the local doctor shortage and his lobbying efforts to have this area designated as underserviced. He said support for doctors and nurses, shortening wait times and ending “hallway health care” are needed for better health care.

A strong social safety net is an important piece of better health care, according to McGrail, who spoke next, in a province as prosperous as Ontario.

Vercouteren said his party’s focus is a health-care system that is not a “sick-care system,” and that preventative health care needs to be looked at in the big picture in Ontario to reduce costs.

Schleier Stahl said as a social worker for 27 years, she understands the health-care needs in the area. With a health-care system envied by our neighbours to the south, however, she knows there are still areas that need improvement and advocacy.

With questions from the audience, such as how would each party pay for improvements to health care funding, Vercouteren answered that the Green Party has a fully costed platform.

“Tax the bad and keep the good. There are going to be big problems to deal with when marijuana is legalized and we will need to deal with those,” he noted.

Schleier Stahl defended the Liberal record on health care, saying wait times are better than across Canada here and there are no more smog days in the riding, along with lower unemployment.

Nicholls said Conservative leader Doug Ford has committed to creating efficiencies, eliminating waste and going over the budget line by line to identify savings.

“The Liberal government spent $1 billion on e-health and we still don’t have electronic medical records,” he said as an example of government waste. “There has been a mismanagement of health-care dollars and there is no money because of mismanagement of your tax dollars.”

McGrail said one thing her party would not do is support P3 (public-private partnerships) which cost jobs and money and hurt service to Ontarians.

Schleier Stahl said she agrees preventative measures are important to reducing health-care costs and increasing the health of Ontarians, and more funding is needed.

On water quality, each candidate expressed concern for the issues faced by Dover and Chatham township well owners with dirty wells and committed to a call for a health hazard investigation into the effects of drinking water with black shale particles in it and agreed those in government at each level should be held accountable.

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