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Candidates square off on health; Local advocates press party standard-bearers on issues ranging from wait times to water quality

Posted: May 11, 2018

(May 11, 2018)

By: Trevor Terfloth, The Chatham Daily News

On such issues as funding, wait times and water quality, local advocates pressed provincial candidates on health care during a debate in Chatham on Thursday night.

The Chatham-Kent Health Coalition and the Registered Nurses’Association of Ontario hosted the event for those running in Chatham-Kent-Leamington, with about 50 people in attendance at Aristo’s Banquet Hall.

Speaking first, Progressive Conservative incumbent Rick Nicholls slammed the prevalence of “hallway health care,” due to a lack of space.  He noted it isn’t the fault of doctors or nurses, and urged people to see first-hand the realities they face day in and out. “I believe you need to get a feel for what’s going on,” said Nicholls, who has served as MPP since 2011.

New Democrat candidate Jordan McGrail said the province must ensure that every family is taken care of.  “Everybody should be able to thrive in a province as prosperous as Ontario,” she said.

Mark Vercouteren, of the Green party, said people need “a healthcare system, not a sick-care system,” and believes the government must consider the larger picture of a healthy society.

Liberal candidate Margaret Schleier Stahl said there is still more work to do, but stressed that Ontarians receive high-quality care that is the envy of the world.  “Could it be better? Absolutely,” she said.

The other candidates took aim at the ruling Liberals, citing government waste or privatization through P3 (public-private partnership) initiatives as having a negative impact.

“We should be driving for service, not for profit,” McGrail said.  Nicholls said with skyrocketing debt, the government has shown it can’t be trusted with tax dollars.

He said responsibility and accountability need to be brought back to restore the public’s confidence.  “We’re looking at efficiencies. … We’re going to work smarter, not harder,” he said.

Schleier Stahl said she took issue with the PC party’s own record as government, highlighting the cuts experienced during the Mike Harris era.  “We ended up paying for it for years,” she said.

Alluding to job losses, McGrail said employees are well-versed in what the word “efficiencies” means when it comes from a business.  “Just remember that when we hear the word ‘efficiencies,'” she said.

Members of the grassroots group Water Wells First were in attendance Thursday, as they continue to raise their concerns about the impact of wind turbines on well water quality.

Vercouteren said the government and wind companies need to work collaboratively with communities to mitigate the issues. “In other places, it’s been done right,” he said.

Schleier Stahl pledged to look into the problem more in the hopes of finding answers.

Nicholls said the “issue is the sediment,” adding that the longterm health effects need to be considered.

Calling it an emotional situation for many, McGrail said the water wells are an example of a green energy project gone bad. “This should have been dealt with a long time ago,” she said.